By 7.15 pm, the hall was beginning to fill up nicely, the three main presenters were checking their scripts or getting the laptops set up and/or handing out copies of their overheads. A further twenty chairs were brought out and, with more than 130 guests seated, including Drs Loeffler, Newby and Ponnala, as well as the two Surgery Managers, Christine and Pam, we were ready to start on the dot at 7.30 pm.
In accordance with the programme, Tony Burkitt batted first and provided the audience with what the PPG is all about – its purpose, its development at Knebworth and Marymead, its achievements over the past couple of years and the plans for the future. He encouraged the audience to consider joining the PPG for the mutual benefit of all patients and to apply online (wwwknebworthandmarymeaddrs.co.uk) or at the surgery.
Next came the presentation from Dr Rachel Fox, the Chairman of Herts Urgent Care (HUC), describing in detail, but with great clarity, the various services that they provide. These include, in particular, out of hours medical cover, the NHS 111 Service for the county and the acute in-hours visiting service. We heard how each of these operates and the performance levels that they achieve and, with the aid of a flow sheet, how the different types of incoming call are dealt with by the handling team and then further down the line. Clearly, the audience was very appreciative of Rachel’s efforts.
The final presentation was from Ken Spooner, our new Practice Manager. He explained the problems that he was confronted with when he joined the Practice and how, with his considerable background in General Practice, he is steadily bringing the ship onto an even keel. He confirmed that both surgeries were now able to offer same day appointments for urgent cases and next day ones for routine needs. However, with 12,000 patients in the Practice, the challenge of getting a specific named GP for same day or next day appointments is just not viable. Plans for the redecoration of the Marymead surgery were announced whilst further information on a possible new surgery in Knebworth, and its location, should be forthcoming later in the year. Ken still needs time to get it completely right but, as a result of the questions that he dealt with and positive comments that came from the floor, he has considerable support from and empathy with the majority of patients who were there.
The meeting closed around 9.00 pm, as planned, and the hall was soon cleared of chairs, tables and paperwork – thanks to everyone who lent a hand with this task. The last of us drifted away about 9.30 pm, well pleased with the way the evening had gone and already talking about setting up another similar event later in the year.