Published:
June 5, 2017
Patients express concern at Burnham Medical Centre testing changes

Patients at a medical centre in Burnham-On-Sea have this week expressed their concern at the planned withdrawal of vital Warfarin blood testing due to a shortage of doctors and nurses.

Burnham & Berrow Medical Centre has written to patients stating that it has been unable to recruit new staff to replace several of its doctors and nurses who have recently retired - and that it has "to concentrate resources on providing essential general practice services."

From July 1st, it says that the crucial Warfarin blood testing and management service is to be withdrawn, with patients being advised to use other medical centres instead.

Burnham & Berrow Patient Participation Group says it is worried about the changes. Its spokesman told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "Very vulnerable patients with absolutely no choice other than to use this service for what could prove to be life threatening situations, have been told by letter on Saturday 3rd June that they will need to register at an alternative GP Surgery to get this service in the future. These patients have effectively less than four weeks notice because of the cessation of this provision by Burnham & Berrow Medical Centre."

"Negotiations and discussions have obviously carried out below the radar, it would seem for almost a year, with even the Patient Participation Group being kept completely in the dark until Friday 2nd June when the Management Partner Mrs Debbie Hale phoned two members."

"There appears to have been no thought for patients' peace of mind, many of whom are elderly, relying at times on dedicated carer support. These patients will have difficulty coming to terms with this and changing to another medical practice. Some patients have been taking Warfarin for over twenty years."

Warfarin is often prescribed for people who have had a condition caused by a blood clot such as a stroke, a heart attack, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism and those with an increased risk of developing harmful blood clots.

Mike Lang, a Burnham-On-Sea patient who will be affected by the changes, told Burnham-On-Sea.com: "I have been on Warfarin, plus digoxin, for around 20 years now because I suffer from the condition of atrial fibrillation. As the surgery can no longer monitor my blood INR - international normalised ratio, a measurement of how long it takes blood to form a clot - they will stop prescribing Warfarin, and I shall be forced to change surgery. I am not completely comfortable with this, having been a Burnham patient for over 68 years. It makes you wonder whether other services will be withdrawn, such as diabetes testing?"

A letter from the partners of the Medical Centre has been sent to affected patients and it states: "We are very sorry for any inconvenience this decision might cause you or your family members."

"Unfortunately Burnham & Berrow Medical Centre will not be able to provide a Warfarin (anticoagulant) blood testing and monitoring service after 1st July 2017."

"You may be aware that the Medical Centre has been unable to recruit replacements for several of the doctors and nurses who have recently retired, and that means we have to concentrate our resources on providing essential general practice services. This is a problem that affects many parts of Somerset, not just Burnham-On-Sea."

"As you know, Warfarin thins your blood and prevents you getting blood clots in your veins or arteries, which can be a cause of heart attacks, strokes, lung conditions (pulmonary embolism or deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Patients who take this medicine need regular blood testing and monitoring to ensure they remain healthy and safe."

"Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is the authority that plans and funds local health services, and they are responsible for ensuring that people on Warfarin are able to get the testing and supervision they need. Not all GP practices offer this service, and in one location in the county a different GP practice does this for a nearby practice."

"In July 2016 we gave notice to the Somerset CCG, that due to significant changes within our Practice that we would discontinue provision of this service from January 2017. This decision was not taken lightly by the Practice and we have looked at all other options to enable us to continue with the service. To give the CCG more time to find a suitable provider, we have continued (with the help of an excellent Locum nurse funded by the CCG) to provide this service for our patients until the end of June, but with holidays approaching this is not sustainable."

"Despite trying very hard for several months and having detailed discussions with several different potential providers, Somerset CCG has not been able to find anyone to take on provision of this service for Burnham & Berrow Medical Centre patients. With regret, it has been agreed that anyone who needs to continue to take Warfarin will need to register with a different GP practice so that they can provide you with your essential blood testing and meet your future health care needs. This is not the outcome anyone would have wished and is disappointing for all concerned."

"Whilst we have discussed the potential for this with the majority of eligible patients, there may still be some patients on Warfarin that can change to a different type of anticoagulation medication that does not need frequent blood testing, but for others there is no safe alternative."

"We have enclosed a sheet of Frequently Asked Questions, which includes an explanation of who may be eligible to change to this alternative type of medication. If you fall into this category and would like to consider this as an alternative to registering with another Practice, then please let us know as soon as possible and we can arrange an appointment with the relevant Healthcare Professional at the Practice to review this with you."

"Please do not stop taking your Warfarin without discussing the options with one of our GPs or Clinical Pharmacist as this could be very dangerous."

"Whilst we respect the right of patients to decide for themselves whether or not to take medication, it is very important that you understand all the risks of making changes to your anticoagulant treatment before you do so."

"We are very sorry that we are having to make this change and we hope that in due course our recruitment difficulties can be resolved and that we will be able to start offering the service again. Should this happen, then we would be very pleased to welcome you back to Burnham & Berrow Medical Centre as long as our Practice lists are open and you are living within our Practice Area."

The letter goes on to suggest that affected patients register with a new GP practice. "All the practices close to Burnham-On-Sea offer anticoagulation services and are able to look after patients taking Warfarin. They are aware of this change in the services we are able to provide and are willing to accept new patients onto their books."

"To register with another Practice, please check in the first instance if you are in the area covered by them. You can either do this by checking the Practice Area on their website or by contacting the Practice directly. If you are in their Area, then you will need to complete a registration form and the Practice can assist you with this."

It adds: "It is very important that you continue to take your Warfarin and have your blood regularly tested. Registration with a new GP Practice will not take long and during that time you will still be able to attend Burnham Medical Centre. However, from 1 July 2017 we will not be able to carrying out blood testing and monitoring related to Warfarin medication and will not be able to issue prescriptions for Warfarin, so it is extremely important that your registration has changed by that date."

"We are very sorry for any inconvenience this decision might cause you or your family members. However, we are sure you will appreciate how important it is that you continue to receive safe and effective health care."

Residents who have difficulty registering with a new GP Practice can contact Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group's Patient Advice and Liaison Service (PALS) on 0800 0851 067 (9am-5pm, Monday to Friday).



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