A takeover of two Hartlepool medical centres has been a success, a doctor told councillors.
Dr Carl Parker, of the town’s McKenzie Group Practice, admitted there were teething problems when it took over Wynyard Road and Hartfields medical centres in July last year.
It followed a review of their contracts by local clinicians, which resulted in the closure of Fens Medical Practice.
Dr Parker told Hartlepool Council’s audit and governance committee the biggest issues it faced have been around the two practices’ computer and telephone systems and high levels of prescribing drugs including sleeping pills and tranquilizers.
He said: “I think it has gone very well what we have done so far, I’m quite pleased with it.
“We have had some difficulties. We’ve had a lot of complaints regarding prescribing changes, but those seem to have reduced dramatically.
“I think what we’re doing is making a big impact.”
Dr Parker said it was mid-November before the practice was able to merge the computer systems for the different medical centres onto one system, and patients can now book appointments and arrange prescriptions online.
But he added Hartfields’ internet-based system frequently goes down due to slow access.
A new telephone system also had to be installed at Hartfields after the previous one went down.
Dr Parker added the use of costly locum staff was much greater than expected in the first few months of the takeover, but they had not needed to use them since the end of December.
He said they have actually had to turn away GPs who wanted to work for them, and by August will have eight partners and one salaried GP.
Dr Parker said there was a “major issue” with reducing high amounts of opiates, sleeping tablets and tranquilizers being prescribed and they are working to bring them in line with other practices McKenzie Group runs.
The audit and governance committee had previously raised concerns over one practice being responsible for so many patients in the town in case it faced difficulties in the future.
Councillor Ray Martin-Wells said yesterday: “It must be a testament to your practice that you’ve got a situation where you are fully staffed and you are having to turn GPs away.
“That absolutely is a first in the whole time that I have chaired any health scrutiny, including North East Health Scrutiny of all 12 local authorities.”