An embattled medical group could close in six month's time after receiving another 'inadequate' rating from health inspectors.
Fitzalan Medical Group was rated as 'inadequate' and placed in special measures in March by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after standards were found to 'diminish' at an inspection in December.
The leadership team at the surgery told the Gazette they were confident they could improve. But after two inspections in July and August, the group was given a further 'inadequate' rating overall - the lowest rating - last week.
The group - which looks after 16,500 patients at surgeries in Fitzalan Road, Littlehampton, and Clun Road, Wick - has been told by the CQC's chief inspector of general practice that if they do not improve in six months, they could be closed down.
In the CQC report, he said: "Insufficient improvements have been made such that there remains a rating of inadequate overall and for providing safe, effective and well-led services. Therefore, we are taking action in line with our enforcement procedures.
"The service will be kept under review and if needed could be escalated to urgent enforcement action. Where necessary, another inspection will be conducted within six months, and if there is not enough improvement we will move to close the service by adopting our proposal to vary the provider’s registration to remove this location or cancel the provider’s registration."
According to the report, published on Tuesday last week, 'the practice were working very hard and new processes were being put in place' but 'systems for implementation to actually deliver improvement in a co-ordinated way were lacking'.
There were also 'significant concerns around the culture and leadership', the report said. Patient feedback was mixed, the report said: "Some patients told us staff were helpful and professional but some patients described staff and GPs as rude."
The report added that patients with long-term conditions did not always have a structured annual review, and data showed the practice was performing significantly below national standards in a number of areas including, asthma, mental health and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
The areas where the provider must make improvements, as they are in breach of regulations, are to 'ensure care and treatment is provided in a safe way to patients' and 'establish effective systems and processes to ensure good governance in accordance with the fundamental standards of care'.
Fitzalan Medical Group in Fitzalan Road had previously been rated as ‘good’ by the Care Quality Commission during an inspection in November 2015.
This comes after continued pressures on GP surgeries in the town, fuelled by 7,500 patients being dispersed to other surgeries after the closure of Arun Medical Group’s East Street practice in 2016.
Speaking to the paper earlier this year, the Fitzalan leadership team criticised the CQC inspectors for an ‘aggressive’ attitude at the December inspection, leaving some staff members in tears, and for not giving them a chance to make changes before putting them in special measures.
They added that the patients they had inherited from Arun Medical Group's closure and problems with hiring medical staff had contributed to their problems.