A PETITION calling for urgent improvements to be made at two GP surgeries which care for more than 7,000 people has been handed in to Barnsley Council’s cabinet.

The 235-signature document relates to Barnsley Healthcare Federation (BHF), which was appointed to deliver services at multiple locations across the borough as part of a multi-million pound 15-year contract which is due to end in 2030.

Having been put in place by the Barnsley Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), BHF now run surgeries at Brierley, Shafton, Goldthorpe, Lundwood and Grimethorpe, as well as the out-of-hours i-Heart service.

Problems have been encountered at Lundwood Practice and Highgate Surgery in Grimethorpe, patients claim, with BHF allegedly relying on locum doctors - GPs who are drafted into surgeries temporarily - which they say has led to a downward trend in the care provided and difficulties in securing an appointment.

A council statement said: “The council’s leader, deputy leader and the director of public health have met with a representative of the petitioners.

“Barnsley CCG - the commissioner of primary care - was invited to the meeting but declined to attend and instead provided a written response to Dan Jarvis MP. The CCG has offered a meeting with its chair at his drop-in session.

“The representative of the petitioners has been assisted in getting a meeting arranged with the chair of the CCG and a follow-up telephone call and letter has been provided to the resident to give the relevant contact details for NHS England, which co-commissions primary care with Barnsley CCG.”

A total of 3,577 patients are registered with Lundwood, while Grimethorpe has 3,571, and it’s not the first time BHF’s alleged reliance on locums has come under the spotlight since its inception in 2015.

Its surgeries in Lundwood, Grimethorpe, Shafton and Brierley all previously required improvement after inspectors found ‘breaches of healthcare regulations’ during their visits, but each is now performing well and all are rated as ‘good’.

However, i-Heart Barnsley was recently blamed for ‘gross failings’ by a coroner after BHF doctors twice failed to diagnose Brierley 23-year-old Jessica Holbrook’s fatal sepsis in 2017.

A subsequent investigation found that at Jessica’s second appointment there was evidence she was septic including a heart rate above 130 beats per minute - but ‘this was not acted on’.

Barnsley Central MP Dan Jarvis added: “I share the concerns of local residents in relation to a lack of GP appointments - it should be a fundamental right that patients are able to see their doctor within a reasonable period of time.

“I am taking practical steps to improve the situation and I have met with the chief operating officer of BHF and have raised concerns directly with the CCG. I’ll continue to work closely with the local community to increase the numbers of appointments available.

“The issue of a shortage of GPs is an issue across the country. The impact of almost a decade of central government austerity has led to a crisis in GP recruitment and retention, which is having the knock-on effect of increased waiting times in local surgeries.”

James Barker, chief operating officer, urged patients to join its in-surgery participation groups to help drive improvements.

A statement added: “Barnsley Healthcare Federation is committed to delivering high quality healthcare for all of our patients.

“We have a patient participation group which gives patients an opportunity to share their views, meet our staff and allows us to share practice updates.

“We have an open invitation to all of our patients to join the group and the date and time of meetings are displayed in practices and on our website.

“Our commitment to patient care has been reflected in our recent CQC inspections which rate all our practices as good.”