Managers of Melton’s Latham House Medical Practice say they are confident it can cope with the substantial growth the town is set to undergo with around 4,000 new homes being built during the next two decades.
The ruling Conservative group on the borough council campaigned at this year’s local elections with a pledge that they will push for a second GP surgery in the town and the NHS East Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Group (ELR CCG), which commissions healthcare services in the area, is currently reviewing future requirements in Melton.
Latham House, which looks after 36,000 patients and is one of the largest GP practices in the nation, is the sole town surgery, although it also has a branch practice at Asfordby.
And senior staff there say the combination of being based in one place and employing medical professionals with a wide variety of skills makes it ideally placed to support the health requirements of the town’s growing population.
Executive manager, Kate Hunter, told the Melton Times: “We are one of the largest practices in the country.
“One of the big advantages we have is a really diverse workforce.
“We don’t just have doctors and nurses, we have physios, specialist mental health nurses, pharmacists and several different types of health professionals.
“The CCG are doing a lot of work at present with the borough council about how we can manage this population growth in Melton.
“They are looking at different options for GP practices and healthcare and we hope that we will be part of the solution in the long term.”
Her sentiments were echoed by Dr Paul Atkinson, the CEO of the Sage Cross Street practice, who said Latham House could be expanded further to cater for the thousands of extra inhabitants expected in the town.
“There is scope to increase capacity here,” he pointed out.
“There is certainly an advantage in our size and being on a single town site.
“We can offer more health services in one place.
“We also have our Asfordby site and that can potentially be expanded too.
“The practice also has nurses with specialist skills so patients don’t have to be sent over to Leicester for treatment at a hospital there.
“We know there are pros and cons to having one practice in the town but there are a lot more advantages, we believe.”
The practice currently has 13 partners and employs 18 GPs, and although Ms Hunter said they are actively looking for more she said it was a challenge because there is a national shortage of qualified doctors.
With people living longer, she said, it was more important than ever for a GP surgery to be flexible in the services it offers to residents.
“We are treating more complex patients with multiple needs,” said Ms Hunter.
“Here, they can be treated for everything under one roof because we have people like specialist diabetes nurses and physios, for example.
“We have all the experts available to treat the various needs of the patient.”
Dr Atkinson added: “It’s a real challenge coping with an ageing population.
“Year on year there is an increase in demand at the practice.
“We are dealing with increasingly complex patients because people are now living with things they wouldn’t have lived with in the past.
“Pulling together all of the treatments for patients is one of the big challenges now but there are many more treatment options than there were in the past.”
The practice is actively trying to reduce the times patients have to wait but they say the situation is hindered by hundreds of people not showing up at the agreed time and failing to notify staff - throughout July 979 appointments were lost as a result of this.
Patients now have access to a dedicated cancellation phone line of 01664 503027 to call without queuing or they can cancel online if they booked the appointment by that means.
Ms Hunter said: “We are trying to work on reducing waiting times for routine appointments.
“Patients can help us by letting us know if they can’t make an appointment as soon as they can.
“It’s also the case now that patients should understand that they don’t always need to see a GP like they did in the past.
“Sometimes it is more appropriate to see a physio or a specialist nurse and they can always be referred to a GP after that.”
There are currently around 135 staff employed at the practice, including those dealing with patients at reception or co-ordinating appointments in the busy call centre on site.
The practice invests a lot of time in training employees which helps retain them in the long run, Ms Hunter pointed out, as well as developing their professional capabilities.
As well as the GPs, there are 35 qualified nurses supported by a dozen healthcare assistants.
Nursing staff deal with patients with long-term conditions, cases in the urgent care centre and those who need treatment for minor injuries.
Lead clinic nurse, Sarah Mabbott, grew up in Melton and enjoys working in her home town’s GP surgery. She said: “I’ve been nursing 11 years and I’ve been at Latham House for six.
“The job has changed because of the ageing population we are dealing with.
“Patients are living with a lot more long-term conditions now.”
She said it was a rewarding profession being able to help people get healthier and feel better in themselves,
“If someone wants to go into nursing at our practice I would say just apply,” added Sarah.
“I got my position by responding to a practice advert for a training post and I’ve never looked back.”