Last week I had the pleasure of visiting the Unity Healthcare GP surgery in Haverhill, and it was a delight to see how Dr David Brandon and his team are modernising and addressing the challenges facing GP surgeries today. Over the past three years, they have made huge strides in improving services - and their progress in access to GP services is setting an example that can be followed across the country.
Absolutely central is the idea of a demand-led approach. Their goal is to consult everyone on the day. Some appointments are left over to the next morning, but the vast majority are dealt with on the day. It means on busy days the team have to work extra fast, and on slower days can take more time. Many consultations are over their electronic system, over the phone, or in appointments booked by text message. Of course, patients can have old-fashioned face-to-face meets too if needs be.
This responsive, dynamic approach seems to be working. The number of complaints I’ve got as a local MP has fallen to almost zero recently. They’ve eliminated the long queues, the 8 am rush, and many - not all, but many - patients prefer to talk to the doctor from the comfort of their homes.
I look forward to seeing Unity go from strength to strength in the coming years so that the residents of Haverhill can receive the high level of local NHS healthcare they deserve. I think it’s a model many can follow to ensure we have the sort of access to primary care in this country that people deserve.