Wigan community group claims health bosses 'failed' under-pressure GP practice and calls for urgent help

A Wigan community group says it is “incredibly concerned” about the pressure faced by staff at a GP practice and has called for something to be done to help.

In a lengthy statement, she revealed the high demand for appointments with GPs, the long hours they are working and the “unacceptable level of abuse” faced by reception staff.

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Standish Medical Practice

She said the “relentless” increase in the number of houses being built in Standish had led to a “relentless” increase in demand at the practice, while this winter has already seen a high number of cases of flu, coronavirus, scarlet fever and other infectious diseases.

Dr Ghalayini appealed for people to support the staff and recognise the efforts they were making to help patients.

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She said: “The reality is that there are not enough of us doing this very important job. We are offering a lesser service than we would like as it is impossible for us to give any more than we are already giving.

"The reality is that the more abuse is directed at these individuals, the more likely more of them will leave the NHS and work elsewhere where they feel protected from this.”

Dr Tim Dalton

‘A perfect storm’

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Dr Ghalayini’s statement revealing what life is really like at the medical practice triggered a strong response from community group Standish Voice.

A spokesman said: “We are incredibly concerned about the pressures that Standish Medical Practice is under and urge those in power in Wigan to step in and help the surgery to cope with the huge demands being placed on it.

“A perfect storm of winter pressures, post-Covid health problems and lack of investment generally in the NHS and social care has come together to create this worrying situation.

“However, the problems are much more acute in Standish because of the huge level of housebuilding over the past eight years which has not been reflected in increased infrastructure, especially in primary care provision.

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“Dr Nadia Ghalanyini says that the patient list at the practice has grown by around a third in 10 years due to ‘relentless’ housebuilding in Standish, at the same time as the number of GP partners has more than halved.

“The staff at Standish Medical Practice are hugely dedicated and work tremendously hard to help those in our community who need them. However, they have been failed by the authorities which allowed this situation to develop.”

Call for action

The group accused Wigan Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – which has been replaced by NHS Greater Manchester Integrated Care – of being “asleep at the wheel” when housing programmes were agreed in 2014-15.

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The spokesman continued: “They failed to warn Wigan Council and Government planning inspectors of the huge problems which would occur if this level of housebuilding happened over such a short timeframe.

“The CCG is also culpable for not putting in adequate mitigation by increasing the level of primary care services needed in Standish – resulting in the crisis we are seeing now.

“We call on the health authorities in Wigan to urgently address the situation. We also call on them to be much more proactive when it comes to giving their views on new housing development in Standish. They should not bury their collective heads in the sand – they need to oppose further housebuilding until adequate primary care services are put in place.

“We also urge Standish Medical Practice and Shevington Surgery – who also care for people in the village – to engage in the planning process and oppose new housebuilding in Standish until they are satisfied that the right level of primary care has been reached.”

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What do health bosses have to say?

Dr Tim Dalton, a GP and co-chairman of the Healthier Wigan Partnership, was previously chairman of Wigan CCG.

He said: “I would like to start by thanking Dr Ghalanyini for expressing so clearly some of the challenges facing every GP practice at the moment, including my own, and echo her plea for kindness and patience with employees in all local services. Each and every member of staff are doing their best to help you and no-one should finish their working day in tears due to unkindness and angry words.

“Whilst I understand the concerns and challenges raised by Standish Voice, it is important to recognise that this issue is not specific to Standish, but a national one.

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“Nationally there is a shortage of GPs – as regularly reported by the Wigan Post – that does impact on us locally, as well the challenge of continuing cases of Covid-19, flu and the latest outbreaks of respiratory diseases and scarlet fever. As Dr Ghalanyini mentioned, some of the ways we are combatting these challenges locally is by funding additional roles in the practice – for example, the pharmacist, mental health workers and physiotherapists, and supporting additional appointments (particularly on evenings and weekends) in local areas.

“We also continue to work with council planners and Healthier Wigan partners to manage and mitigate for the impact of any housing developments on local services. It was work like this that led to the Standish Medical Centre being built and opened about 10 years ago and is the reason for the new health centres currently being built in Boothstown and Aspull."