A pandemic, a merger and no space for patients or staff: a situation described as the 'perfect storm', by Senior GP Partner, Andrew Craze. Yet Leatside Health Centre has weathered that storm and come out stronger, with support from Kernow Health CIC and the new Excellence in Practice programme. We visited Leatside in Redruth, Cornwall, to find out more.
Watch the video HERE and read more about the merger below:
Originally separate neighbouring practices, Clinton Road and Manor Surgery decided to work more closely together, moving into the same building in March 2020. The process that was initially described as ‘incredibly exciting’ by Senior Partner Andrew Craze, soon presented a series of obstacles that resulted in him reaching out for support from Kernow Health CIC (KHCIC).
“We realised that we were running out of space rapidly in our building and we needed much more help with the management of the two practices combined. And also, by that stage, we had decided to merge and we really needed help with the process.”
Throw in a global pandemic and the practice faced the 'perfect storm' of events.
Merger process 'complex and difficult'
KHCIC put Andrew in touch with Pam Smith, an Associate on the Excellence in Practice programme and an experienced hand in management within the world of Primary Care.
“Pam would drive down from Devon to meet the staff”, Andrew added. “She met with all of the staff, talked to them all, appraised a lot of them, and found out their concerns and worries and - really very rapidly - decided where we would need help over the coming months.”
Andrew says that the merger process was far more complex and difficult than they had imagined and Pam’s experience within the sector was essential in navigating the various forms and conditions that had to be met: “I think Pam's experience with senior members of the CCG, NHS England, proved invaluable here.”
Pam recognised the need for more practice management support and helped the practice to find the right candidate - again through KHCIC. Initially employed on a six-month contract, Elaine White is now the permanent Operational Manager at Leatside Health Centre.
Becoming one practice
Elaine says that at first, the practices were still working very separately and was her job to align the staff and services for the patients: “They were still Clinton and Manor. They weren't Leatside yet ... and so I began trying to align staff, trying to get them all in the right frame of mind, trying to be more positive. They had a really tough year with Covid and the pandemic and they were finding it hard going.”
“They were one Practice to me,” she continued. “I didn't know them as working in different practices. And so I just wanted to align all the services and make sure that we were doing the best for our patients.”
Speaking of Pam, Elaine thinks that her input helped “focus the team and recognise areas that Leatside needed to focus on”. And where does Elaine see the practice in the future? “I'd like to think that as a practice we will be forward thinking and we will change with the needs of our population … and make sure that our patients feel they have the help they need when they need it.”
Support 'simply invaluable'
Andrew concludes by recognising how hard it can be to reach out for help as a General Practice: “I don't think any of us like to admit that we're having difficulties. We probably would have got through it alone. But I think it would have been a lot more traumatic, we may have lost more staff and I think we'd have been traumatised as Partners in the process.
“The help that KHCIC gave us at that time was simply invaluable, and I think we've come through it far stronger and far happier than we would have done otherwise.”
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