New Eltham Medical Centre consists of two GP practices- one on Thaxted Road and one on Blackfen Road. Between them, they have 8854 registered patients. Clinical services are provided by three GPs (two male and one female) and two practice nurses (one full time and one part time.) We spoke to 4 patients during our visit to Thaxted road surgery.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) carried out a comprehensive inspection of New Eltham Medical Centre (Thaxted Road and Blackfen Road Branch) on 5 November 2017. They rated the surgery as ‘Good’ overall.
Summary of findings
The outside of the building was tidy and attractive, and has a pleasant looking, well-kept front garden. The surgery is clearly identifiable with a large sign on the front lawn.
Transport links to the surgery are good, as there is parking on the same road and there are bus stops directly outside. There is disabled access to the surgery as a ramp leads from the main road to the electronic front door. It is clear where to go on arrival as the reception area is placed inside the main waiting room. Both reception staff were friendly and helpful on our arrival.
Waiting for an appointment
The surgery’s main waiting area was small but clean and tidy. It had a pleasant atmosphere, with pictures hung on the wall and tidy noticeboards and leaflet stands. There was a health monitor in the main waiting area, which is free for patients to use if they ask reception staff for a token. A toilet was available near the waiting area which was clean and well-kept and had disabled access and baby-changing facilities. Hand sanitisers were available at the main reception area.
Electronic check-in was not available in the waiting room, and there was no electronic call system for appointments. Waiting times were not displayed in the main area. However, when we spoke to the practice manager she informed us that they are currently looking into installing this. The waiting area offers little privacy, as the reception area is directly in front of all the seating which face it. The waiting area is not very child-friendly, with no toys or books.
We saw no signposting towards the surgery’s online booking system or any translation services, or towards the GP access hubs. We did not see any information provided in alternative formats such as Easy Read. We also noticed that some information on display was out of date.
Ways to feedback
We did not notice a comments and suggestions box in the main waiting area. Although there was a poster for the Friends and Family test on the noticeboard, we did not see any slips available for patients to complete. Similarly, there did not appear to be any signposting towards the surgery’s patient participation group (PPG).
Access and hygiene
Everyone we spoke to on the day felt that the surgery was always kept clean and tidy, and rated the hygiene of the practice as either good, very good or excellent. Similarly, the patients we met were happy with access, as they could either walk in easily or find parking nearby.
Appointment booking and punctuality
The patients we spoke to gave mixed feedback about the availability of appointments at the surgery. Although some told us it was not unreasonably difficult to get an appointment, others said it varied and that at times they had to wait weeks. Availability seemed to depend on the urgency of the patients’ needs; one patient explained that although she sometimes had to wait a while for an appointment for herself, if it concerned her baby they booked her in quickly. Similarly, another lady told us that when her need had been urgent, they had offered her a same day appointment.
Similarly, feedback about the punctuality of appointments was mixed. One lady told us that she sometimes waits up to thirty minutes to see the GP, but that she does not mind. Others felt that punctuality was good, with one patient explaining that he usually only has to wait five to ten minutes past his appointment time. However, one patient explained that although the nurse was usually punctual, GP appointments typically ran around fifteen minutes late.
Treatment received by staff
Most people we spoke to were pleased with the treatment they received from their GP, rating them as either good or very good. One lady was particularly impressed with the treatment received from her GP, explaining that when she had gone in for a physical concern, he had also taken the time to explore her mental wellbeing and ended up referring her towards Time to Talk.
Descriptions of the reception staff included ‘friendly and helpful’. One lady we spoke to did comment that the reception staff often seemed to be under-pressure, and another patient told us that he often had to wait to speak to reception when he arrived at the practice or rang the surgery, but that once he did they were generally helpful. We heard more mixed feedback from one patient who told us that although most of the reception staff were helpful, there was one member of staff that she had found to be particularly abrupt in the past.
Involvement in decision making and information provision
Most patients we spoke to felt involved in the clinical decisions which were made about their care and the amount of information they received from clinical staff. One person did feel that there could be more information offered in the GP appointment. However, another told us that the GP was ‘very informative, if they’re discussing something with you’, and another commented that ‘they explain everything to me’.
No one we spoke to was aware of the surgery’s patient participation group.
Medication and prescriptions
The patients we spoke to generally found it easy to get their prescriptions via the practice, and one person told us that she could always approach the nurse and have an open discussion with her if she had any concerns about her medication. We only heard one concern, which was from a patient who felt that if he needed to see a doctor about his medication, there might end up being a delay due to the difficulties booking appointments.
Patients rated the surgery and the treatment they received as good, very good or excellent overall. Comments included; ‘I think it’s a great surgery’; and ‘it’s a lovely surgery compared to past surgeries I’ve been at. Everyone is friendly and helpful’. The main problems patients communicated were around the availability, booking and punctuality of appointments.