Nurses experienced a ‘toxic’ workplace culture after a rift between two GP partners in a London general practice recently rated as inadequate, according to The Care Quality Commission (CQC).
Following an inspection in May, Eltham Palace Surgery in Greenwich was rated as inadequate overall by CQC, and saw the practice’s ratings for safe, effective, responsive and well-led drop from good to inadequate.
The inspector’s report found that there was a ‘divide’ between two GP partners, which had created a ‘toxic work environment’ for the practice’s three nurses and other staff.
CQC deputy director of operations in London Antoinette Smith said that the inspector was ‘disappointed’ to find that the split in the partner’s relationship had ‘led to serious leadership issues’.
‘This resulted in leaders overlooking issues impacting people’s safety and allowing a toxic workplace culture to develop,’ Ms Smith added.
Ms Smith said that patients had ‘repeatedly complained’ about a lack of accesses to appointments, but that the leadership had not taken action when staff raised this concern.
According to the report published by the regulator, there was not evidence that staff had always completed necessary training and practice leaders did not show they had the skills or capacity to run the practice.
Likewise, patients found difficulty getting appointments, putting people on high-risk medications or with long term conditions at risk, inspectors found.
Practice staff also told the CQC that understaffing made it ‘difficult to guarantee people access to the services they needed.
‘We found the split between partners had limited recruitment efforts and alienated staff, who told us they felt overworked, stressed, and unable to raise issues,’ said Ms Smith.
‘This is unacceptable, staff have valuable information to keep people safe and leaders need to act to on this when they’re told something is wrong.’
However, the CQC did note that the practice maintained an ‘active patient participation group, which allowed people to provide feedback to the practice through meetings’.
The practice has been placed in special measures and the CQC has demanded leaders make ‘immediate improvements,’ while the regulator continues to monitor the practice through further inspections.
In a statement, a representative for Eltham Place Surgery said they were ‘obviously disappointed’ by the outcome of the inspection.
‘All staff at Eltham Palace Surgery work incredibly hard and put in many hours behind the scenes to give the care we are commissioned to provide to our patients.’
The practice said that since the Covid pandemic they have seen an influx of more than 2,000 patients, while also being unable to recruit new salaried GPs in the last two years.
Since the CQC’s inspection, the practice said they have ‘identified specific problems with the recruitment of GP sessions’ in order to ensure patients have access to urgent and routine appointments.
‘We continue to work positively with the CQC and SE London Integrated Care Board and make good progress as acknowledged by the CQC inspector recently.’