Changes outlined for GP practice in Haverhill

The management team at Christmas Maltings and Clements Practice in Haverhill has outlined how the surgery is changing as it looks to address the pressures facing the service.

Suffolk GP Federation, which took on the running of the practice last year, said the new way of working will allow them to continue to provide “safe, appropriate and sustainable” care.

Dr Paul Driscoll, Medical Director and Chairman of Suffolk GP Federation, said: “Christmas Maltings and Clements currently offers more than twice the number of appointments compared to similar sized surgeries in Suffolk.

“In addition, we have just three equivalent full-time doctors working at the practice. This will drop to two in October. The  shortage of GPs in Suffolk and across the UK means we are unlikely to find replacements. We will be using locum doctors until we can attract other GPs to the area.

“It’s therefore important that we maintain a manageable workload for our clinicians, otherwise, if we do nothing, there’s a risk the situation will get worse.

“If we are to continue to provide safe, appropriate and sustainable care, then we must change the way the practice operates.”

To help manage this change, some staff have been trained as ‘Care Navigators’ so they can direct patients to the most appropriate clinician to meet their needs.

This may not always be a GP, but could be a nurse, physiotherapist, paramedic or pharmacist, all of whom are supervised by a doctor.

When no appointments are available patients will be redirected to self-care or asked to call the next day.

Dr Driscoll continued: “Care Navigators are now common in many GP practices across the UK. They treat a patient’s call with the same level of confidentiality as a clinician and ensure patients are always seen by the right healthcare professional.

“These clinicians have specialist knowledge on a range of conditions, which helps to free up doctors’ time for the more complex cases and allows patients to be seen quicker.”

Suffolk GP Federation has also announced a number of staff changes at the practice. Dr Fiona Andrews will be retiring in September and Dr Tom Curtis will be leaving in June. Dr Afshan Hussain has also recently left the practice.

Other changes include the installation of a new phone system and the introduction of self check-in screens at the Clements building – freeing up non-clinical staff so they have more time to answer the phones. Suffolk GP Federation is also in the process of recruiting additional receptionists, but this has been difficult.

Margaret Marks, a member of the Christmas Maltings and Clements Patient Participation Group (PPG), said: “Despite the challenges faced at Christmas Maltings and Clement Practice, it is encouraging to note how well the multi-disciplinary approach has worked.

“Patients are consistently comfortable with the care practitioner they see, whether it be a paramedic, health care professional, nurse or doctor. However, there is still a great deal of work to do to avoid a crisis in the future given the planned increase in the town’s population and the aging demographics.”

Dr Driscoll added: “We recognise that patients have had to cope with a lot of change in a relatively short period of time and we would like to thank them for their continued support and understanding. Should anyone have any concerns or questions about any of the changes then we would ask them to please, get in touch.”

The changes mean that the practice will operate in the following way:

  • Other than those for nurse or healthcare assistant clinics (e.g. blood tests or routine clinics for long term conditions such as diabetes), appointments will only be available on the day a patient contacts the practice.
  • When a patient telephones, they will speak to a Care Navigator who will treat their call with the same level of confidentiality as a clinician.
  • The Care Navigator will direct patients to the most appropriate specialist clinician to meet their needs. They will be offered two alternative appointment times to choose from.
  • On busy days appointments will be prioritised for patients who have been determined as clinically urgent. Monday, Friday and the day after a Bank Holiday are always very busy days.
  • When no appointments are available, patients will be directed to alternative sources of advice (such NHS 111 or the NHS Choices website) or asked to phone back the next day.
  • Patients who believe they need a home visit are asked to request this before 10am.
  • The practice is no longer able to provide certain services such as routine ear syringing.


Patients can learn more about the changes by visiting the practice website and viewing the latest newsletter at Copies are also available in reception areas.