AN innovative Exeter GP surgery which caters specifically for the homeless and vulnerably housed has been highly commended by the government’s health and social care regulator.
The Clock Tower Surgery, which is located within the CoLab wellbeing hub at Wat Tyler House in Exeter city centre, has been adjudged ‘outstanding’ by the Care Quality Commission [CQC].
"There was a truly holistic approach to assessing, planning and delivering care and treatment to patients who use services," said the CQC’s chief inspector of general practice, Professor Steve Field, of the surgery, which is operated by Access Health Care – a subsidiary of Devon Doctors, the GP-led, not-for-profit, social enterprise which has been responsible for the county’s urgent out-of-hours GP care for 20-plus years.
Professor Field continued: "Staff [at the Clock Tower] worked collaboratively with many other providers, both within the hub and externally, to ensure the vulnerable patient group was supported to receive coordinated care which met their needs. Practice staff used opportunistic, innovative, and efficient ways to deliver more joined-up care for patients."
"We’re delighted that our efforts to help Exeter’s homeless community – and, in particular, their healthcare concerns – have been recognised," said practice manager Rachael Hallam.
"All of our patients are either homeless or vulnerably housed – that’s to say they do not have a permanent residence – and a significant number of them have addictions and / or complex mental health problems. As you might imagine, dealing with such issues is often far from straight-forward and it’s testament to the wonderful team we have here at the Clock Tower that the CQC has awarded us its highest-possible rating."
The Clock Tower relocated from its original home – adjacent to the Queen Street landmark from which it derives its name – in the summer of 2016 and its lead GP, Dr Pip Smithson, says being located within the CoLab, alongside a host of other organisations which share the surgery’s commitment to helping the homeless and vulnerably housed, has been hugely beneficial.
"Our service users often have a number of issues which it is often difficult, if not impossible, to resolve in isolation," explained Dr Smithson. "Co-locating alongside a number of other services – such as mental health workers, probation staff and addiction treatment workers – which, like us, are dedicated to addressing the needs of some of the city’s most socially excluded individuals significantly heightens the likelihood of our being able to affect those individual’s lives positively."
Dr Smithson’s comments were echoed by Mel Hartley the project manager at St Petrock’s, the Exeter-based charity which provides a range of emergency, support and prevention services to help the homeless re-build their lives and make the transition to independent living.
"Clock Tower Surgery provides a vital service to some of Exeter’s most vulnerable individuals," said Mel. "We were delighted to learn that their outstanding work has been recognised by the CQC."
Her comments were echoed by Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw. "It’s great to see all these different organisations working together, under one roof, for the benefit of some of the city’s most vulnerable residents," said Ben.
"I’ve long been impressed by the vital work undertaken by staff at the Clock Tower and, as this latest CQC report testifies, their relocation to purpose-built new premises within the CoLab has enabled them to take things to another level."
The CQC report has also seen the Clock Tower lauded by health secretary Jeremy Hunt MP, who has written to congratulate staff.
"I know the immense amount of day-to-day hard work that will have been behind this outcome cannot be underestimated," wrote Hunt. "It is greatly appreciated, not just by me, but by all who will be benefitting as a result.
"It should be particularly pleasing to you to have been recognised for your outstanding responsiveness and leadership."