AN IMH-run Swindon GP surgery has seen its watchdog rating fall, with inspectors raising patients’ concerns that they had not been consulted on phone line changes.

The Care Quality Commission rated Taw Hill Medical Practice as requires improvement following its latest visit in January. It means a drop in the rankings for the north Swindon surgery, which in 2015 was given a rating of good by the CQC.

It is the second time this year that the watchdog has demanded improvements at an IMH-linked Swindon surgery. In January, a report into Moredon Medical Centre prompted the resignation of lead partner Dr Peter Mack from Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group.

Dr Martyn Diaper, chief executive of IMH, which entered into an agreement with Taw Hill GPs last April to provide back-office support, said an improvement plan was in place.

CQC inspectors made an unannounced visit to Taw Hill in January. They said concerns raised about another service that is part of the same partnership agreement understood to be the much-criticised GP appointment booking phone line.

Inspectors said all nine patients they had spoken to “claimed they had not been consulted on plans to merge five practices and create a central telephone hub at Moredon Medical Centre”. They noted feedback on the NHS Choices website from patients warning of long waits for routine appointments.

Of 17 feedback forms received by the surgery in January 2019, all but four rated the practice as excellent. “Following the survey, the practice showed us documentary evidence that they deployed more staff to handle calls during times of peak demand, which helped further reduce call waiting times,” the CQC said.

Overall, the practice was given a requires improvement rating. There was no record of recent fire drills, criminal record checks were not kept with all staff files, and the surgery scored poorly on its management of patients with high blood pressure and diabetes.

Inspectors handed the practice two improvement notices, ordering the Taw Hill surgery to improve fire safety systems and improvement audits.

However, the practice was rated as good by the CQC against the question “Are services caring?” Inspectors noted that GPs would call bereaved relatives to offer support and advice after the death of a patient. People felt fully involved in decisions about their care and treatment.

Additional nurse appointments were available before 8am during the week, so children could be seen before school. All parents calling with concerns about a child were offered a same-day appointment where necessary.

Responding to the latest CQC report, Dr Martyn Diaper, chief executive of IMH, said improvement plans were in place.

In a statement he said: “The report highlights that patients at the practice had good outcomes and received effective care and treatment that met their needs. It recognised they were supported and treated with dignity and respect. Patients were involved as partners in their care .

“The report goes on to say that people’s needs were met by the way in which services were organised and delivered.

“Following the inspection in January an improvement plan was developed and has been implemented.”

Swindon Clinical Commissioning Group said it was meeting regularly with IMH.

A spokesman told the Advertiser: “As the commissioner of GP services in Swindon, we would like to reassure local people that we will be doing all we can to ensure the care and treatment provided at Taw Hill will be improved following the CQC inspection, so that patients’ experiences are more positive in the future.

“We are already meeting with IMH – as well as the general practices the group is in partnership with – on a regular basis and, wherever necessary, using these opportunities to check improvements are being made.

“As part of this process, we are also listening to patients’ concerns and learning more about what we as a CCG can do to support hardworking frontline staff in driving forward improvements.”