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A visit to the UTC by David Monk, GP Care Group Non-Executive Director

Posted on: 22 February 2022

David Monk joined our board as one of three Non-Executive Directors in the GP Care Group nearly three years ago. 

Non-Executive directors have a scrutiny role and work to provide assurance that the organisation uses resources effectively and efficiently and that the services we provide are of the highest quality and are safe.

David, along with his fellow NEDs, who began their roles mere months before the COVID pandemic began, recently took up the opportunity to visit the Tower Hamlets Urgent Treatment Centre, one of the services the GP Care Group provides for the borough. This service has faced success over these past few years, but also challenges due to receiving huge volumes of patients while dealing with the constraints of COVID-19. Keen to hear what he thought about the service and how it is run, we interviewed David following his visit to ask him to share his thoughts about his visit to the UTC. 

Read on for some of David’s observations about his UTC visit:

“It's probably worth noting that we went on a clear, bright Wednesday afternoon at 1pm. I think that's important because the UTC is obviously a 24/7 365 days a year service, so we might have had a different experience had we have gone at midnight on a Sunday or on a Friday.

That day seemed busy to me as every seat available was occupied, but there have been times when people queue at the door. One thing I observed was where the UTC was in relation to the A&E department and the walking distance. All patients need to take this route in order to access the UTC because that is the screening process for patients, they present to A&E before being asked to go to the UTC for treatment. 

We spoke to a patient who advised she had issues with her breathing and mobility which meant that walking from A&E to the UTC was something she expected to be challenging. An hour later, on the way out after my visit, I happened to see her again and spoke to her to see how she felt after her appointment, and she said she received good service despite the walking distance being tricky for her. It was lovely to hear her positive feedback. 

Although the UTC may seem unorganised at first glance when entering, it isn’t, as there are pretreatment assessments taking place, and blood pressures being measured before patient treatment happens. This was very impressive to see first-hand. 

In terms of the service’s layout, there was a real opportunity to assess the level of space, and I saw good-quality size rooms for patient assessment. If the GP Care Group had been given the opportunity to design spaces from scratch, the organisation would have improved on the space constraints, and it could have been even better.

I was hugely impressed with the UTC staff we met; they’ve managed to keep the service going; delivering care through the hardest times we’ve seen. Everyone I met showed a real sense of passion and hard work. It felt like a happy place. It felt like a place that people were pleased to be working in. 

David Robertson, the GP Care Group’s Chief Operating Officer, who leads the service, does so in an open, engaging, empathetic style, and I got the sense from staff that they felt they were in a role where they could really make a difference and could contribute to quality improvement.

When we visited, the service’s new Clinical Lead Nurse, Julie Eldridge had only been in her role for two days and was clearly coming into her position with a passion for the service. She has seen the service from the other side while previously working in the Emergency Department (ED).

As Non-Executive Directors visits like this really helps us to do our job better. There are definitely things in the works for us to keep seeing how services are run. One thing I’m keen to do next is follow a Health Visitor around for a shift to get a sense of what’s involved in their workday, and how people.

It’s great to have people come in and talk to us about the services they are running, such as in board meetings, but actually going out and seeing somewhere, such as the UTC, where we know it’s new, has had its challenges and its Covid year(s), etc, you can get a far better sense of the data that you then look at about a place when you’ve gone and seen it. 

I’m delighted to see what the Urgent Treatment has been doing, and I’m excited to see the service flourish.”