Fraud, gambling and missed diagnoses leave 12,000 patients in limbo as GP closes



A GP practice has lost its contract to treat patients after years of problems – including a fraudster manager who swiped £580,000 to feed her gambling habit.

Staff at Failsworth Group Practice, in Oldham, were told by the clinical commissioning group that its contract was being terminated on January 28, leaving 12,000 registered patients in limbo as they await a permanent switch to a new surgery.

The decision comes after watchdog reports outlined major problems at the practice, including missed diagnoses which could mean more than 170 people were never told they had potentially life-altering kidney disease, Manchester Evening News reports.

The shocking report also included a GP refusing to offer treatment to a child who had become very unwell on the premises instead of telling the youngster they needed to go to A&E, while staff were not properly recording key documentation, including ‘do not resuscitate’ orders. .

Dr Fareeha Saeed said she was ‘heartbroken and devastated’ at losing the CCG contract

Health chiefs have stressed that they did not take make this decision lightly and it was an action of last resort.

In order for this to happen there needs to be serious contract breaches, a significant risk of harm, and leaders have to be convinced that the only way to protect people is for them to be treated elsewhere.

And there are a number of further formal investigations which could be launched over additional serious issues at the surgery.

Surgery manager Dr Fareeha Saeed, said she was “heartbroken and devastated” at losing the CCG contract, claiming things at the surgery were “on the mend and heading in the right direction”.

The thousands of registered patients with Failsworth Group Practice will now be temporarily split between two other GP practices in the same building while CCG staff look for a long-term solution.

Pete Davis, a Labor councilor representing Failsworth West, has himself been a patient at the practice since he was a child.

More than 12,000 registered patients are now in limbo as they await a permanent switch to a new surgery
(

Image:

Manchester Evening News)

He says he has had constituents coming up to him in shops and regularly phoning him and his colleagues to complain about their GP services, but even he found the results of the recent inspection “shocking”.

Failsworth Group Practice was first rated inadequate by the Care Quality Commission in 2015 before inspectors upgraded it to “good” in 2016 – which was subsequently supported by a follow-up inspection in 2018.

In that same year partners at the surgery became concerned when they discovered they needed to take out a £25,000 overdraft in order to have enough cash to pay staff.

It was discovered that the manager, Karen Evans, had falsified patient records to divert nearly £600,000 of money earmarked for medication, staff wages and medical supplies to her two bank accounts over a 15 month period.

The mum-of-two used most of the money to feed her gambling addiction and she was jailed for more than three years in 2019 for the fraud.

However, afterwards, the practice started to destabilize and four of the partners left as a direct result of Evans’ criminal activity.

A routine CQC inspection in May 2021 downgraded the surgery to “requires improvement”.

Health chiefs have stressed that they did not take make this decision lightly and it was an action of last resort
(

Image:

Manchester Evening News)

They promised a re-inspection within six months, and councilors and the CCG pledged to work with the surgery to turn things around.

By early December things had not improved and had become demonstratively worse.

The categories of safety, effectiveness, responsiveness and leadership of the surgery were all given the worst rating of “inadequate”.

The lack of medical staff to treat patients was considered a crucial factor in the loss of the practice contract.

Then a “serious event” occurred at the practice sometime between the May and December inspections.

During a booked visit to the practice, a child had become “very unwell” while they were still on the premises and their parent had asked to see the GP again.

However the GP “would not see them, and they were told to attend A&E'”, the report states.

A formal complaint was made to the practice following the incident, and despite this, it was not officially recorded as a “significant event” until a week after the CQC interviewed the provider.

During the watchdog inspection, clinical record searches were undertaken by a GP specialist adviser, who examined the list of patients to identify those at risk of chronic kidney disease.

They found there were 172 with potentially undiagnosed chronic kidney disease (CKD).

The cases of five patients were investigated in detail and it was found that none had undergone a test that helps to identify kidney disease that can occur as a complication of diabetes.

Monitoring of patients taking high-risk medication was also sub-standard, the CQC said, with processes not put in place to ensure this was carried out – despite it having been raised as an issue in May last year.

Many patients were overdue for blood tests, and several “do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation” orders were not adequately recorded.

Dr Saeed has previously disputed the findings in relation to the missed diagnosis of kidney disease – which she attributed to “coding” errors – and also that the serious incident involving the child was not handled correctly.

Dr Saeed also said the practice was in the process of setting up an online consultation system that would have “given us approximately 250 more appointments a week'”< with the website set to launch the day the CCG pulled the plug.

Angela Rayner, the local MP, said that the “very least” that residents deserve is an “accessible and reliable service”.

Currently, temporary caretaking arrangements have now been put in place to allow patients to continue to access GP services at the surgery.

While these temporary arrangements are in place the CCG will begin to consult with the patients registered at Failsworth Group Practice as part of a process to establish a ‘permanent solution’ for them.

The most likely solution is that patients will be moved to another practice, with the patient list of 12,166 people potentially being split between Quayside Medical Practice and Medlock Medical Practice, both of which are also based on the same building as Failsworth Group Practice.

Mike Barker, Accountable Officer of NHS Oldham Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) told the Mirror: “Due to the concerns around the quality of care delivered by contract holders for Failsworth Group Practice, the decision was taken by NHS Oldham CCG to terminate the contract held by them at midnight on Friday 28th January 2022. Patient safety is paramount and we want minimal disruption for patients. For this reason, the CCG has put arrangements in place to ensure that patients registered to Failsworth Group Practice can continue to access GP services.

“This means that despite urgent contractual changes, there is no change for patients. They will be able to access GP services and arrange repeat prescriptions using the same contact details and if they have an appointment booked, they will still be seen, just by a different provider.

“While these temporary arrangements are in place, we will start to consult with the patients registered at Failsworth Group Practice as part of a process to establish a permanent solution for them.”

If any patients are concerned, they can contact the CCG’s customer care team at [email protected] or 07966 746117.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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