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Lakeside Healthcare Stamford PPG folds as surgery ‘refused to engage’

‘No acceptable alternative’ has resulted in the folding of a patient participation group.

On Monday (March 22), the, now former, Lakeside Healthcare Stamford PPG notified its 550 active members that it would fold after the practice “refused to engage” with the committee.

Since April 2015, it has been a contractual requirement of NHS England for all GP practices to have a PPG, which is a representative group of patients, carers and GP practice staff who discuss practice issues and help patients’ voices be heard.

St Mary's Medical Centre in Stamford
St Mary's Medical Centre in Stamford

The group campaigned against the proposed closure of St Mary’s Medical Centre in Stamford in the autumn.

In a statement, the group said: “It is with the utmost reluctance and regret that your PPG for Lakeside Healthcare Stamford, as elected by patients/members in January 2021, has had to take the difficult decision to formally cease its activities.

“This is because Lakeside Stamford and its senior management at Corby have refused to engage with us at any level as a properly elected group because some of the current committee members were part of the PPG in 2020 who campaigned on behalf of the very substantial patient voice against the closure of St Mary’s Surgery in Stamford.”

The group said that in order to carry out its role, there had to be a dialogue between the parties.

The statement continued: “Lakeside has not shown this and, after springing the St Mary’s closure on us all last year, is continuing to refuse to engage with their PPG despite the NHS directive in July 2020 requiring GP practices to do so.

“This refusal to engage with their PPG has been with both the old and the newly elected PPG.

“As Lakeside will not talk to us, despite having received written assurances of our positive support, then we cannot carry out our role of representing the patient voice.”

Due to the pandemic, all routine non-essential meetings have been suspended at the GP surgery as they are restricting the number of patients on site.

Robert Harris, chief executive of Lakeside Healthcare Group, said that “because of these necessary covid-related restrictions, the meetings between the local PPG and Lakeside partners and staff have had to adapt to circumstances”.

Mr Harris added: “With the huge demands placed upon GPs and managers in dealing with the highly successful covid clinics at St Mary’s Medical Centre, the PPG was asked to suspend any meetings until Lakeside has finished vaccinating patients in Stamford.

“This is obviously a key health priority. The PPG was not willing to do this.”

This week Lakeside management is set to meet with people, including former PPG board members, to reinstate a PPG.

Its priorities will include gathering feedback and co-designing services to deliver a ‘better health future’.

Mr Harris said: “Recently, a new health pressure group has been established in Stamford.

“There is a fundamental conflict of interest between serving on a PPG, working alongside any GP practice to improve services for patients, and being an active member of a new pressure group with a different agenda.

“It was suggested to the PPG that those members who wanted to be part of any new pressure group could do so, but they should allow others take their place on the PPG board.

“Unfortunately, those members with obvious conflicts decided to close the PPG down.”

He said he believed the closure statement was distributed without all members of the current PPG being aware or agreeing.

Andrew Nebel is the former chairman of Lakeside Stamford PPG and set up Better Healthcare for Stamford (BH4S), the group Mr Harris referred to, after stepping down from the committee.

Mr Nebel said: “It is two organisations which are completely different.

“I was the chairman in 2020 but there’s absolutely no connection between the two whatsoever.

“Furthermore the purpose is much wider. It’s not just to do with Lakeside, there’s a much bigger set of objectives.”

Andrew added: “An immediate objective is lobbying for Lincs CCG to encourage another primary care provider to operate in the town.

“I hope they now recognise Lakeside’s monopoly is not appropriate and that a second primary care provider is needed for the town, not just in the hope that the spur of competition will encourage Lakeside to raise its game, but also to ensure there’s sufficient capacity to deliver care to the expanding population with surgeries accessibly located close to where patients live.”

Andrew stated that he does not know of anyone serving with Better Healthcare for Stamford who was also part of the PPG committee.

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