Sheffield councillors criticise government after NHS walk-in centre rated 'inadequate'

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Special measures mean it will be inspected again within six months, and could be stopped from operating if it does not improve.

The NHS walk-in centre on Broad Lane, Sheffield City GP Health Centre, has been rated inadequate overall by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) after an unannounced inspection.

Safety, effectiveness and leadership were all rated inadequate. Being caring and responsive to people’s needs were rated as “requires improvement”.

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The centre has been placed in special measures, meaning it will be inspected again within six months. If that inspection finds a key question or the overall rating to be inadequate, the CQC will begin to stop the provider from operating the service.

The NHS walk-in centre on Broad Lane in Sheffield city centre. The NHS walk-in centre on Broad Lane in Sheffield city centre.
The NHS walk-in centre on Broad Lane in Sheffield city centre.

Dr Sean O’Kelly, chief inspector of hospitals for the CQC, said: “Special measures will give people who use the service the reassurance that the care they get should improve. The service will be kept under review and if needed could be escalated to urgent enforcement action.”

Provider One Medicare is a private company which has a contract with Sheffield Teaching Hospitals Trust.

Labour councillor Ruth Milsom, who chairs Sheffield's Health Scrutiny committee, said: "It's upsetting to hear that the Broad Lane walk-in centre has been rated as inadequate by the CQC. 

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“These are symptoms of much deeper problems of management right at the top. It is government ministers who are ultimately responsible for the health of the NHS.”

The CQC received feedback from locums - fully qualified staff who stand-in temporarily - that they would not be used again by the company if they raised any concerns.

The report states: “The delivery of safe high-quality care was not assured by the leadership, governance or culture of the service as there was a lack of oversight and monitoring of systems and processes and delays in taking action to identified issues. Staff feedback was mixed, with some saying they felt supported and able to approach management whilst others did not feel they could raise issues for fear of retribution.

“Substantial and frequent” staff shortages were a key theme contributing to the inadequate safety rating. Staff said they felt obliged to stay longer than their shift, until midnight or later on occasion, to see all patients.

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IT issues, such as not allowing temporary, stand-in staff to access a patient’s summary care record, also prevented staff from providing safe care and treatment.

Coun Milsom added: "I will visit the centre to meet with lead personnel, and anticipate our conversation to be around issues that are frequently seen as failing in CQC inspections across the country - staff shortages, inadequate IT systems, and management pressures. 

"I will be seeking assurances from the local NHS Integrated Care Board as to the future security of these services that clinical staff work so hard to deliver and are relied on by so many of us.”

The inspection found the skill mix of staff to be insufficient in dealing with the full range of potential conditions, particularly with child patients under two. 

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Not all staff in lead roles had received specific training for their position, including the infection prevention and control (IPC) lead.

Coun Douglas Johnson, leader of the Green Group, said: “A meaningful response to this judgement would be to properly fund the NHS. Viewing the performance of the NHS walk-in centre in isolation at best gives an incomplete picture and at worst completely ignores its relationship with other health services.  Demand for services at the centre could be reduced significantly if people had good access to GP services.

“So to respond to the CQC, we need to look not just at how we can improve the walk-in centre, but also how we can get the government to recognise that all the customer-facing parts of the NHS should be funded properly.”

A spokesperson for OneMedical Group, which runs the walk-in centre, said: "Following the CQC inspection in April 2023, we responded promptly to rectify areas for mprovement identified at Sheffield City GP Health Centre, which delivers a vital service to the city.

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"We are also in ongoing discussions with the CQC regarding some factual inaccuracies within the report and await a response to those queries.

"Patient safety and experience remains our utmost priority and we are working hard to ensure the centre continues to deliver a quality service to patients and their families, including the introduction of weekly quality improvement meetings, supported by the CQC and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, to implement further changes quickly and efficiently.

"Our dedicated team are committed to continuously improving the service we deliver 8am to 10pm, 365 days a year. We look forward to the CQC returning for a re-inspection to see the improvements made."

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