THE GP partner at the latest IMH surgery to be placed in special measures has said he is deeply disappointed by the way his patients have been looked after by the Manchester-based firm.

It came after the Care Quality Commission rated Phoenix Surgery in Toothill as inadequate. They put the practice, which in 2017 was rated good, in special measures.

The practice is the third in Swindon with a relationship to IMH to be rated inadequate. A fourth, Taw Hill Medical Centre, was rated requires improvement in March.

In their report, CQC inspectors were scathing about the management by embattled IMH, criticising leadership and highlighting delays in answering calls and managing clinical correspondence like letters from hospital consultants to family GPs. A central hub at Moredon Medical Centre was responsible for booking appointments for Phoenix patients.

Dr Peter Swinyard, who set up the Phoenix Surgery in 1995, said: “I’m deeply disappointed with the way in which the practice has been managed and the very shoddy service that so many of our patients have suffered because of difficulties getting through on the phone and difficulties making appointments.”

He pointed to the fact his surgery was rated good against the CQC's "caring" category. Dr Swinyard said the surgery was on the verge of signing a partnership agreement with another practice. He said of the arrangement: “That will be very much better for our patients.”

The latest CQC report is a backwards step for the Phoenix Surgery. A turnaround saw in rated good in 2017.

Inspectors highlighted the difficulties facing patients trying to get through to the Moredon hub and book GP appointments at Phoenix Surgery.

A quarter of calls to the hub were abandoned and average waiting times were between 15 and 25 minutes. However, inspectors added: “We found that some patients were left holding for up to one hour.” Data shared by Swindon NHS Clinical Commissioning Group suggested the problem was getting worse.

The CQC slammed the Better Health Care Partnership, the organisation set up by IMH to oversee the five Swindon surgeries.

Inspectors wrote: “There was no stable leadership team, with high unplanned turnover of operational leaders and for positions across the hub.” They added there was no effective approach to monitoring progress against an improvement plan.

There was little cooperation between the five practices and, at the Moredon hub, staff morale was low: “Staff did not feel respected, valued, supported or appreciated.”

The CQC warned of a backlog of clinical correspondence relating to patients at the Phoenix surgery, including hospital letters that had not been reviewed.

Responding to the report, Swindon CCG said the CQC’s concerns reflected their own and work was underway to address the problems.

“The CCG is fully aware of the concerns raised by the Care Quality Commission, as these reflect the same concerns we identified ourselves when visiting Phoenix Surgery and the other practices that had been in partnership with the IMH Group,” a spokesman said.

“It is understandable this news will cause worry among patients, but we’d like to reassure people that work to address these issues has been taking place since before this report was published.

“Along with colleagues from the Local Medical Committee, we are going through all clinical correspondence from the last 12 months for anything that may have been overlooked, as well as re-examining patient complaints and concerns for any issues that could have posed a risk to patient safety.

“This, along with the many other initiatives happening behind the scenes to ensure the practice can continue to see patients as normal, is taking place at the same time as the work we are doing to identify new local providers that will be able to offer the leadership and stability that has been absent from Phoenix, and the other IMH surgeries, over the last 12 months.”

The Adver approached IMH for comment. In May, it was announced the firm would be leaving Swindon by November.