GP in charge of Earls Barton and Northampton surgeries removed over catalogue of failings

Caretakers will take over running of two practices to ensure continuity of care

Friday, 9th July 2021, 2:41 pm
Updated Friday, 9th July 2021, 4:56 pm

Two Northamptonshire GP surgeries with 9,500 patients and a senior partner have been de-registered after inspectors found a "whole catalogue of issues" putting patients at risk.

Magistrates ruled on Friday (July 9) Earls Barton Medical Centre, which also runs Penvale Park surgery in Northampton, should have its registration cancelled because they believed "patients were put at risk as a result of poor supervision, administration and training".

Dr Muhammed Azizullah, senior manager at EBMC, also had his registration cancelled at a hearing in Northampton.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Earls Barton Medical Centre
Earls Barton Medical Centre

Today's ruling does not affect Dr Azizullah's fitness to work as a GP but he cannot continue in the statutory role of registered manager at either Earls Barton or Penvale Park.

Inspectors from the Care Quality Commission, the independent regulator for medical care in England, found serious failings at the surgery during an unannounced visit in April.

Out of nine major issues raised with the surgery following that inspection, only two have been fully addressed.

That led to the CQC taking the highly unusual step of seeking a civil order cancelling both Dr Azizullah's registration and the registration of Earls Barton Medical Centre under section 30(1) of the Health and Social Care Act 2008.

Penvale Park surgery in East Hunsbury is a branch of Earls Barton Medical Centre

Presiding justice Neil Sheppard said the bench had accepted the CQC's view that there would be a serious risk to life health or well-being if the practice was allowed to continue.

Both Earls Barton and Penvale Park will continue to operate to ensure continuity of care for patients but will be under the control of a caretaker practice put in place by the county's Clinical Commissioning Group.

CQC inspector Donna Heads told the court how the county's Clinical Commissioning Group — which issues contracts to surgeries — had turned whistleblowers over a "whole catalogue of issues" involving safeguarding and safety of patients.

Magistrates also accepted there had been a bullying culture of staff within the practice.

Ms Heads said: "There had been a very large number of resignations at the surgery which was unusual because they were in all areas of the practice.

"I talked to staff and they were emailing me directly. The CCG had a log of 30 whistleblowing concerns and some staff clearly told us they felt uncomfortable working in an unsafe environment and could not continue with the culture they were experiencing at the practice."

Dr Azizullah claimed most of the surgeries' problems had stemmed from staffing issues and former employees not adhering to key tasks.

He added: "We are not perfect, all I am asking is given time and breathing space to look into this and bring it back to the court if necessary.

"Recruitment is a big issue but we now have a layer of management in place, including recruiting a very astute practice manager who has been through this process where a practice was not performing and wants to take the practice forward with us.

"Whatever has been identified we are working on it but there is a limit to how many people you can recruit with an air of negativity.

"We are picking things up and going back through records to put things right.

"On April 22 when the CQC inspectors arrived, I said 'thank you very much for coming' because I knew things were wrong.

"I put my hand up as a senior partner that I should have done more but when you employ people to do their job and they don't, you do become helpless at times.

Dr Azizullah also added that the atmosphere at the surgery had become difficult after he began asking questions of staff.

He said: "I have never been in a court of law before but I am being held accountable. Do I not have the right to hold other people accountable?

"I have been at this practice ten years and I have put my blood sweat and tears into it.

"We have been firefighting but we are making a change and we are getting the right people on board."

Following the conclusion of the case, a CQC spokesperson said: “We inspected Earls Barton Medical Centre in April and found a lack of systems and processes to keep patients safe. We reported our findings to the service’s provider so it knew where improvements were needed, and imposed a number of conditions on its registration, requiring it to take specific actions to improve quality and safety.

“We inspected the service again in June and July to assess whether improvements had been made.

“Disappointingly, we found insufficient progress – including regarding oversight from management, safeguarding and staffing arrangements – which presented continued and serious risks to patient safety. We also found the provider had not taken sufficient action in response to the conditions we previously imposed.

“These issues led us to successfully applying for a court order to cancel the registration of the provider and the registered manager, under section 30 of the Health and Social Care Act 2008, meaning the service cannot continue under its current leadership.

“The service’s provider and registered manager has the right to appeal the court decision.”

Julie Curtis Director of Primary and Community Integration for NHS Northamptonshire CCG said: “As the commissioner of GP services, our priority is ensuring patients can access safe and high quality services that meet the standards they rightly expect. A recent CQC review has highlighted a number of areas of concern with Earls Barton and Penvale Medical Centre and has therefore decided to cancel the practice’s registration.

“To minimise disruption to patient care, we have appointed Albany House Medical Centre as a caretaker provider. Patients should continue to contact the surgeries if they require GP care.

“For further information and updates please visit www.northamptonshireccg.nhs.uk