Public credit should be given to the doctors and staff at Fitzalan Medical Group for hosting a patients’ information meeting last Wednesday (April 11) to provide information following their placement into ‘special measures’ by the inspectors at the Care Quality Commission.
What was very clear throughout the meeting is the hard work and dedication that the staff continually put into their patients, and how the judgement by the Inspectors has had a significant impact on their work. It was particularly disappointing to hear some of the ways that the staff, particularly on reception, have been treated in terms of insults and aggression from patients not only since the inspection’s findings, but also before.
Whilst everybody who phones asking for an appointment will believe that their case is the most urgent, it became clear at the meeting that the surgery, like pretty much every other in the area, is facing a losing battle, with hundreds of calls every morning, each competing for available appointments that number in only the dozens through the day.
Fundamentally, this is not the doctor nor the staff’s fault. It is not their fault that there are insufficient doctors in the system; it is not their fault that they have had 2,500 new patients on their books in the last two years thanks to the closure of Arun Medical Group and the development of North Littlehampton without any doctor’s surgery as part of the development deal. The blame for these problems rest higher up the system; the responsibility of the local NHS bosses at the Clinical Commissioning Group for the lack of North Littlehampton planning, and at central government level for the lack of doctors.
And the same is true of the other challenges facing Littlehampton. The rise in anti-social behaviour in the town, for example, is not the fault of the police officers and commanders on the ground, who are having to cover larger and larger areas with fewer officers, but rather the political decisions of Sussex’s Police and Crime Commissioner, and the central government’s cuts to police numbers. Our anger should be directed at them, not the (admittedly hard to spot) bobbies on the beat. The downgrading of Littlehampton Ambulance Station is not the fault of the paramedics, but the lack of funding from higher up. The funding of our schools and consequential pressures they are facing are not the fault of our headteachers or governors, but the government’s unfair funding system.
If we are to address and improve these shortcomings that so badly affect our town and community, our anger and frustration must be directed at those in power higher up the chain, not the public servants at the chalk face, who happen to be the first person we see. If we unite in doing this, perhaps the change we want might be easier to achieve.
Cllr Freddie Tandy
Littlehampton Town Councillor,
Manor House, Church Street, Littlehampton
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