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Scilly GP hits back at helicopter criticism

The Isles of Scilly's Lead GP has hit back at the recent suggestion by a Councillor that patients are being flown off the islands for treatment more than necessary.

Dr Chris Picken wrote to Cllr Avril Mumford, chair of the Scrutiny Committee, to express his "disappointment" over comments made by former GP Adrian Davis at the committee's meeting on October 23rd, which were subsequently reported in The Cornishman.

After saying that he "didn't wish to be critical", Cllr Davis had said: "In the few years since I have been involved I've seen the helicopter taking patients to the mainland far more than it did when we had doctors here… this is where I find it difficult…. shall we say [the current doctors] don’t take as wide a remit as was taken in the past and this is for cultural reasons as much as anything else...

"There is a move towards the recognition that we do need to get back to some of the clinical care that falls between general practice and emergency care. Some emergency care can be done here and in fact in some instances would be better done here and it's bad medicine at times as well as expensive medicine to put someone in a helicopter. Yes it passes the buck elsewhere but it isn’t necessarily the best way of treating that patient."

Dr Picken's letter to Cllr Mumford was read out in yesterday's (December 6th) Scrutiny Committee meeting.

Read the letter in full below:

Dear Councillor Mumford I was disappointed to read the comments reported in the local press from Councillor Davis, regarding the provision of healthcare services on IoS to the Scrutiny Committee on the 23rd October 2018. Councillor Davis has described the the local General Practice service as ‘bad medicine and expensive medicine to put someone in a helicopter and passing the buck elsewhere’ and also described it as ’not necessarily the best way to treat patients either’. Please could Councillor Davis provide his evidence for this statement. This is without any factual basis. Quoting helicopters flying with patients as a measure of medical care standards has no correlation with any aspect of healthcare standards and does not reflect any external assurance assessment we have been involved with. We have been and remain CQC Outstanding. As a highly experienced group of clinicians, we are always committed to providing the highest standards of care for our patients. No doctor, nurse or allied health professional is guilty of 'passing the buck’ when planning or delivering patient care. I would be grateful if the Councillor could evidence why he has forwarded this opinion. I am concerned these comments have been accepted by the Scrutiny Committee without question. Councillor Davis’ opinions do not appear to be representative of the wider public view of the healthcare we provide. As you are aware we were nominated by our local community for the GP Awards ‘Practice of the Year'. I would be delighted to offer the Scrutiny Committee the comments received by our local residents relating to this. Should the Scrutiny Committee have any ongoing concerns I would be more than happy to discuss these and would reassure the Committee that Scilly clinicians remain very much involved in the governance of medical services on these islands. I look forward to the Committee’s reply, Dr C Picken Lead GP Isles of Scilly

Cllr Mumford said she had written to Dr Picken and also to Cllr Davis to request clarification of his remarks.

After the letter was read out, Cllr Jonathan Smith said: "I think I speak for everyone around this table to say we are fully in support of our excellent health service and very much support Chris Picken in saying it's an outstanding rated health centre and we're very proud of our services here."

Healthwatch Deputy Chair Jane Hurd added: "Healthwatch does a biennial household survey and one of the sections is about the local GP practice. All I can say is that it's consistently given us very, very good feedback from people replying. We get a pretty good response rate and certainly I would go along with what Cllr Smith has said. I think if we didn't say anything at the last meeting it may have been that we were a bit stunned by the comments ourselves."

Watch the discussion at yesterday's meeting:


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