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Farmhouse Surgery Fails CQC Inspection

The failing report of Farmhouse Surgery is emblematic of a larger issue

Farmhouse Surgery, a medical practice in Christchurch, Dorset, (Farmhouse Surgery, Christchurch Medical Centre, 1 Purewell Cross Road, Christchurch, Dorset, BH23 3AF), has been rated as ‘inadequate’ overall following an inspection carried out from March 20-22, 2023, by the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The inspection was initiated due to concerns raised by patients. This has prompted further investigation into the wider issue of access to doctors, especially as online forms and appointment gatekeeping by receptionists become increasingly common.

CQC Ratings: A Cause for Concern

The CQC’s report showed that both the safety of patients and leadership at Farmhouse Surgery were deemed ‘inadequate’. While the practice’s responsiveness was rated ‘good’, its effectiveness required improvement. Notably, the ‘caring’ aspect was not inspected during this visit. The results of the inspection, especially the areas of patient safety and leadership, raise serious concerns about the quality of care provided at the practice.

Patient-Doctor Access: A Wider Issue

The failing report of Farmhouse Surgery is emblematic of a larger issue prevalent within Christchurch and beyond: the growing dissatisfaction over patient-doctor access. With an increasingly digital world, face-to-face appointments are becoming more difficult to obtain, with patients often having to navigate complex online forms or face gatekeeping receptionists who determine their eligibility for in-person consultations.

The changing landscape of healthcare access disproportionately affects the elderly and vulnerable, who may struggle with technological barriers or be unable to effectively communicate their health needs over the phone or internet. This raises the question of whether current practices are primarily serving patients’ needs or the convenience of the practice owners.

Rethinking Practice Operations for Accessibility

In light of the growing challenges, there is an urgent need to reconsider how medical practices operate to improve accessibility. While digitalisation has its benefits, there should also be consideration for those who find this shift difficult. Balancing the convenience of online forms with the necessity of in-person appointments is crucial in ensuring patients receive the care they need.

Medical practices should focus on patient-centric approaches, offering a blend of digital and traditional methods. Gatekeeping roles should also be reassessed, ensuring receptionists are adequately trained to handle health inquiries without hindering patient access to doctors.

The Way Forward

The issues faced by patients at Farmhouse Surgery are not isolated. With an increasingly digital healthcare environment, we need to ensure all patients, particularly the elderly and vulnerable, can easily access the medical care they need. As we navigate these changes, it’s crucial that we take a step back and ask: who should medical practices truly serve – the patients or the practice owners?

While the situation at Farmhouse Surgery serves as a sobering reminder of the challenges, it also provides an opportunity for healthcare providers to reconsider and reform their practices. It is a call to arms for healthcare professionals to ensure that medical practices remain accessible, patient-focused, and of the highest quality.

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