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The History of SMG

 

The Origins of the Surgery

Sleaford Medical Group spans a long way back in the development of this busy, expanding market town. Whilst it now has a patient base of over 18,000 people, it started with humble beginnings. One of our current members of staff, Doreen Bark (Dispenser) is the longest ever serving employee to the surgery, having worked here for over 44 years. She has kindly shed some light on how Sleaford Medical Group has changed over her time here.

 

Doreen first joined the surgery in 1971, when it had existed for only two years. Prior to Sleaford Medical Group, there had been several smaller practices, with single Doctors and their own individual patient base – Dr Hall, Dr Walker, Dr Birks, Dr White, Dr Scaldy and Dr Collinge. These Doctors then decided to join together in 1969 in a partnership and create one collaborative effort which served the entire town – a partnership system which is still in place today.

 

The first site of Sleaford Medical Group was opposite where the Marquis of Granby pub still resides, in what was once the Coal Dickens Hill Accountancy firm – this was demolished a few years ago. As the town and the practice both expanded, new premises were soon needed, which is when the practice moved to the current site on Boston Road in May 1992. The population of Sleaford in the early 1970s was merely 7,900 – the town is now estimated to be home to over 25,000 people, not including the many surrounding villages also included in our patient base.

 OLD SMG                                                                                                                                Reception Desk

         The old site of Sleaford Medical Group                                                                                                                                       The old reception desk

          

Doreen has found that Sleaford Medical Group’s accolade as the largest practice in the county may be down to the ageing population of the town. Many patients she knows moved here from the South to retire in Lincolnshire’s quiet countryside – whereas others she’s known since being children to now having adult children of their own.

 

 

Memories of the Surgery and its Development

Dr Collinge, former originating Partner of the Practice, kindly spoke to us about his memories of founding Sleaford Medical Group and how being a GP in Sleaford has changed since the 1960s. His working life with the practice spanned over 40 years.

 

Sleaford Medical Group also has a small claim to fame from these early days. Dr Collinge recalls that he and Dr White had decided to make use of Sleaford’s wide patient base, and begin a research trial into the effects of regular blood pressure monitoring on hypertension sufferers. After collaborating with the Medical Research Council and forwarding on the findings, Sleaford Medical Group helped to pave the way for national standards of hypertensive treatment which are still used today.

 Sleaford does, of course, lay in the middle of some dangerous road intersections, with the A17, A46 and, one of the highest fatality concentrated roads in the country, the A15. Dr Collinge was one of the GPs who were not only seeing patients in the day-time, but also on-call at night as the first-responders to some of these catastrophic accidents. An organisation called ‘Lives’ – still going today, primarily as defibrillator providers – was founded around this time, and utilised Sleaford Medical Group almost as an ambulance station. The role of GP and paramedic has since been made disparate, but the role played by our founding partners was very much a 24 hour, all-encompassing position.

Old SMG Staff        Sleaford does, of course, lay in the middle of some dangerous road intersections, with the A17, A46 and, one of the highest fatality concentrated roads in the country, the A15. Dr Collinge was one of the GPs who were not only seeing patients in the day-time, but also on-call at night as the first-responders to some of these catastrophic accidents. An organisation called ‘Lives’ – still going today, primarily as defibrillator providers – was founded around this time, and utilised Sleaford Medical Group almost as an ambulance station. The role of GP and paramedic has since been made disparate, but the role played by our founding partners was very much a 24 hour, all-encompassing position. 

Old SMG Doctors

 

Doreen remarks remembering that the dispensary used to work very differently when she was its manager (a promotion she claims consisted of merely the phrase, “Doreen, you do it” from then-partner Dr Birks). Prescriptions for the day were once left out in large containers for patients to rifle through themselves in a morning – something which seems unthinkable to us today. The dispensary now has two dedicated areas in the surgery, in the Drug Dispensing Area downstairs and the Dispensary Office upstairs, but this wasn’t always the case. The dispensary was once located in a small corridor between the Reception and tea room!

 

Dr Collinge oversaw the difficult time moving into the new building on Boston Road. Not only was there very little help financially from the Government following the retraction of a loan system for new health centres, there was a furore over the renovation of what used to be a brewery into a fully functioning GP surgery. On one memorable occasion, there had been some financial difficulty between the window suppliers and their accountancy firm, and following one night of visiting bailiffs, the surgery was found devoid of its windows only a few days prior to the planned opening.

Whilst the surgery is now classed as ‘paperless’ and works in almost entirely electronic methods, this has only been the case since 1998, before which all patient records and appointments were kept on physical card. Long term patients may remember that even in our current site, physical patient records used to be kept in large bookcases behind the reception desk. These physical records do of course still exist and are used from time-to-time, but are now stored elsewhere in a building which was later purchased by the surgery.

The surgery has remained in its second iteration on Boston Road, and had its own fair share of changes and renovations. A major addition was the expansion to include the independent Riverside Pharmacy, who are thriving well as our close neighbours. There are now over 60 members of staff in total in the building, from Doctors to nurses, dispensers to secretaries, and coders to cleaners, as well as around 30 clinician rooms.

 

Following the early innovations and national influences of Dr Collinge and his staff, the surgery is now also is known for being a training surgery. Sleaford Medical Group frequently takes on apprentices through external learning providers and gives them careers as a result. It has since progressed to develop a working relationship with the University of Lincoln too, working as a placement centre for training nurses, phlebotomists and Health Care Assistants and giving vital experience towards the award of their degree.

The surgery has also expanded to be even more than a Doctor’s practice. As of October 2014, Sleaford Medical Group took on the extra responsibility of being an NHS Walk-In Centre, known as the ‘Sleaford Urgent Care Unit’, which can see patients and non-patients alike out-of-hours and at weekends. This was designed to relieve pressure on busy A&E departments and proved hugely popular in its initial six month pilot, and has since been extended by a further twelve months due to positive patient feedback. If it continues to be a success, the unit – which is the first of its kind in the county – will be rolled out to other practices in the area.

 

Sleaford Medical Group may be developing further in the future, with enquiries being made in the long-term to become a fully authorised college/awarding body, which is able to train internal and external staff and award certified qualifications as a result of the experience gained.

 

We hope that Sleaford Medical Group continues to thrive and develop in the vibrant town of Sleaford for many years to come, and also that more dedicated members of staff like Doreen will remain here serving the community for decades still to come.



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