A health watchdog has ordered a south Essex GP to make immediate improvements as its rating has dropped from requires improvement to inadequate.

Balfour Medical Centre has dropped to the lowest possible rating in a report published today, after an inspection by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) found previous concerns were not addressed.

This inspection at the Grays GP in July was carried out to follow up regulation breaches CQC found at the Balfour Road centre’s last inspection.

These previous concerns included poor governance impacting people’s safety. 

Hazel Roberts, CQC deputy director of operations in the East of England, said: “When we inspected the Balfour Medical Centre, we were very concerned to find leaders hadn’t fully addressed the safety concerns found at our last inspection and had allowed many issues to worsen. We found many systems to manage people’s health needs were in disarray, and leaders weren’t listening to people’s feedback. 

“Inspectors found the practice wasn’t always managing people’s medications safely or monitoring care for people with long-term conditions. They also didn’t always monitor or respond to people’s individual risks. 

“We saw negative feedback from some people using the service, who said staff weren’t always kind or approachable. Many told inspectors it was hard to get appointments, and inspectors saw that referrals to other services were often delayed. This was putting people’s health at risk. 

“We found leaders weren’t seeking out people’s feedback, nor could they show action they’d taken to address people’s concerns. Staff told us they didn’t feel able to help improve the service either, and we found leaders hadn’t given them additional training when they requested it.” 

As well as dropping from requires improvement to inadequate overall, so have the practice’s ratings for "safe", "effective", and "well-led".

Its rating has dropped from good to inadequate for "responsive", and from good to requires improvement for "caring". 

“We’ve told the practice exactly where they need to make improvements and will be watching closely to make sure these are carried out urgently,” Ms Roberts continued.

“If we are not assured that people are receiving safe care, we won’t hesitate to take further action.”

While staff told the watchdog that the newly appointed practice manager was approachable, some staff felt stressed due to the high workload and did not always feel supported, the report says.

The centre had fixed health and safety concerns raised at the last visit, including improvements to fire risks and electrical testing, inspectors found.

However, it found when things would go wrong, the practice did not always take action or learn from this to protect people in the future.

Staff did not always follow up with people who described potentially serious symptoms to make sure they got the care they needed. Inspectors were told the practice had reviewed care for all people at high risk following this inspection.

Staff also did not always have training they needed to keep people safe, such as in safeguarding.