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Bookings never easy

As a patient of one of the surgeries bought by IMH, I believe I am qualified to offer an opinion on the farcical situation.

However, it is important to note two things. The first is that the booking of GP appointments was never straightforward and without hassle before IMH took over. What IMH succeeded in doing was making a poor ‘customer’ experience markedly worse by integrating five call centres into one, without providing sufficient resource to manage the transformation.

Secondly, while it may be technically correct to state some doctors are resigning, it would also be true to say that some had already made the decision to retire.

When the partners of the five surgeries, which Tom Seaward rightly describes as businesses, sold out to IMH they did so knowing that their status would change from being owners to employees - a big change which came with benefits and consequences.

The main benefit to the doctor/partners was that they had their pockets stuffed with gold as they sold their profitable practices (buildings and lists) to the highest bidder, and you can be sure there were other interested parties eager to buy those businesses.

The inevitable consequence of the sale was that in order to recoup the significant cost of purchase IMH had to reduce its cost base and the easiest way to do that was to centralise back office functions including call handling. The ‘victims’ of reduced back office services are, of course, patients – but for IMH a patient is simply a number to be viewed through the prism of profit.

To pillory IMH (deservedly so) for the recent failures should not blind us to the benefits they brought to other areas, in particular the positive way in which they assisted in the development of Abbey Meads Surgery and the important work they undertook at Eldene Surgery.

Finally, patients at Moredon are right to bemoan the loss of an excellent GP in Dr Peter Mack who is quite properly described as a “top-class GP” – we wish him well in retirement.

Des Morgan, Caraway Drive, Swindon

Canal at a disadvantage

The ‘Mystery of canal that’s losing water’ (SA, June 3) is no mystery. All canals lose water, but fortunately most gain more than they lose.

Unfortunately the canal at Whichelstowe has a major disadvantage to most other canals in that it would appear to have no supply, other than rainfall and seepage into the canal.

It does have a further disadvantage in that there are two different levels caused by the lock which requires water to be pumped, at times, from the lower level to the upper one.

It is most likely that the problem with water level falling will continue until such time as the Wichelstowe length is connected to the original restored length from the Waitrose to the approach to Kingshill.

This section benefits from an almost continuous inflow from Okus Hill, entering the canal, on the bend, immediately north of the M&SWJR bridge.

Whilst there may be canal bed leakage, the greatest loss is almost certainly evaporation, which at the rate of up to 10mm per day would result in a drop in water level of 70mm, almost three inches, in old money, in a hot week with no rainfall.

Henry Smith, Past director, Wilts & Berks Canal Amenity Group

Fitting honour for writer

The Richard Jefferies Society is delighted to learn that Swindon Heritage has placed a blue plaque on the farmhouse at Coate where Richard Jefferies was born in 1848, in honour of this great writer.

Readers might be interested to note that on 6 June 1903, some 106 years ago, a Jefferies’ memorial was unveiled on the wall, by the old gothic door to the house, that can still be seen today. The Swindon Advertiser covered the ceremony in an article dated 12 June 1903.

May Richard Jefferies always be remembered for his glorious and beautiful writing about nature.

Jean Saunders, Hon secretary, Richard Jefferies Society, Foulsham, Norfolk