'Urgent action' at Swindon private health firm

"Urgent enforcement action" is being taken against a private healthcare company after complaints of long waits for appointments and blood test results at GP surgeries.

Integral Medical Holdings (IMH) took over services for five health centres and 50,000 patients in Swindon in 2017.

Now the Care Quality Commission (CQC) has stepped in after two inspections.

IMH said giving patients access to safe and effective treatment was its top priority.

Image caption Alan Hargreaves visits his surgery in person to ensure he gets an appointment

Alan Hargreaves, who is 87 and diabetic, said he failed to get an appointment despite ringing repeatedly, so he visited his surgery in person instead.

"There isn't enough staff, they can't deal with it. They've set up a system here that doesn't work," he said.

"You've got three to four-week waiting lists to get in. By that time your ailment is over so you don't bother any more. You sit and suffer."

Caroline Iles said she had given up getting trying to get her blood test results from her surgery and now always called the hospital direct.

"You can't get through, nobody answers. If I come in they're either too busy or they haven't got the results there," she said.

Image caption Caroline Iles rings the hospital direct to get her blood results rather than relying on the GP surgery

The CQC has acted against IMH following two inspections in April and after one of the surgeries - Moredon Medical Centre - was placed in special measures.

It also oversees services at the Taw Hill, Eldene and Phoenix (Toothill) surgeries and the Abbey Meads medical centre.

In a statement, IMH said creating a centralised call handling hub for the five GP practices had led to some dissatisfaction among patients for which it sincerely apologised.

But the company said it fully believed that in time it would provide more efficient access to care.

It wanted to offer reassurance that work to address the concerns was already under way.

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