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'Serious failings' at GP's practice

Health officials have been forced to take action against a GP after identifying "serious failings" at his practice.

Patients at Dr Bijan Saha's surgery in Sittingbourne, Kent, are being placed at "unacceptable levels of risk", the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said.

The practice failed to meet 11 standards of safety and patient care, inspectors said.

They concluded that the failings were having a "major impact" on patients.

Officials identified problems with privacy and dignity for patients, cleanliness and medication errors.

The regulator is taking enforcement action against the surgery but is not legally permitted to comment on the type of action.

Michele Golden, CQC's head of GP inspection in the South, said: "The issues that we have identified at Dr Saha's practice are very serious, and we'd urge anyone who uses it to read our full report.

"The failings detailed in the report show why we've decided to take action against him - although we cannot discuss the nature of that action any further at this stage for legal reasons.

"We've shared our concerns with the rest of the local health economy and have asked that they also consider what action they may need to take to ensure that people using services at this practice are protected from harm.

"People using this practice are currently at unacceptable levels of risk - and keeping them safe is a job for all of us.

"Patients are entitled to be treated in services which are safe, effective, caring, well run, and responsive to their needs. We'll continue to monitor this practice very closely, and will report further on the action we are taking in due course."

The action follows an unannounced inspection of the practice in March.

Inspectors looked at 11 standards of care including respecting and involving people who use services, the adequate care and welfare of patients, whether or not appropriate measures were in place to safeguard people who use services from abuse, whether there is adequate cleanliness and infection control and the effective management of medicines.

They also looked at the safety and suitability of the premises, various requirements relating to workers, record keeping and the assessment and monitoring of the quality of service provision.

The practice failed to meet national standards in all areas, CQC said.

Patients told inspectors that practice staff would talk about other cases in their presence - breaching patient confidentiality, two patients said that they didn't feel listened to during their consultations, and it was found that medicines were not being handled or stored properly.

A spokesman added: "Repeat prescriptions were issued without reviews having taken place, and were often printed by administrative staff on the verbal instructions of Dr Saha. This procedure had led to a prescribing error which could have had very serious consequences for the patient concerned."

Other patients raised concerns about not being able to get an appointment - the practice is only open from 09:00 to 11:00 and 16:30 to 18:00 on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday and on Wednesday mornings.

Inspectors said people were being placed at risk on "unsafe treatment" because records did not always show whether or not a patient had been assessed in person or over the phone, meaning it wasn't possible to ensure they had been adequately assessed.

They also found that staff who chaperoned people during intimate procedures did not have criminal records checks in place.

And there was no formal training in safeguarding procedures so staff do not know what to do if they suspect a patient is being abused.

Some areas of the practice were found to be "dirty and cluttered", inspectors added.

The practice, in Todd Crescent, Church Milton, Sittingbourne, is run by Dr Saha who is assisted by a GP, a practice manager and three administrative staff.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: "These findings are shocking and cause a great concern to us."

"GPs are the first port of call for patients and to be faced with such poor quality of service is completely unacceptable.

"The concerned practice has shown absolutely no regard to the need for confidentiality, safety , dignity and respect when dealing with a patient.

"Where is the duty of care to the patients who are probably being put at risk in the GP surgery by someone who is trusted and respected by his/her patients? The report highlights a catalogue of errors which can be very disempowering for patients.

"It is ultimately the patients who suffer. Providing care which is high quality, safe and maintains dignity at all times should be fundamental to care provision in all care settings."

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