Trainee Doctor Impressed By Scilly’s Innovative Health Centre

Peter Woodward-CourtInnovations introduced at Scilly’s Health Centre are way ahead of mainland GP surgeries, even those in London.

That’s the view of trainee doctor Peter Woodward-Court, who is undertaking a four-week student placement on the islands this autumn.

Peter is in the final year of his medical degree at University College London, where students spend their first workplace session at a surgery “within the M25” then get to choose a second trainee period outside the capital.

He said while many of his colleagues decided to stay in the Home Counties, he wanted to go somewhere “a bit different and more remote.”

Peter says a lot of students want to come to Scilly and he feels lucky he got the chance to work here. He’s the 10th medical trainee that the surgery has helped to train over the years.

And Peter says the differences between his time here on the islands and in London are “striking.”

With three GP’s for around 2,500 registered patients, he says the doctors get to know everyone well.

That means there’s more continuity in the treatment they receive, because the GP’s can easily discuss their cases.

And the patients can get to know individual doctors better than elsewhere on the mainland, being able get an appointment with their preferred GP within 24 hours usually.

Peter says at the surgery he worked at in Angel Islington in London, people often had to wait six weeks if they decided to see a named GP. And the number of people registered changed by 25% each year.

Peter has seen a difference in behaviour here too, with patients tending to contact GPs less for more trivial ailments like coughs and colds than they would in London.

He believes this desire “not to bother” the doctors reflects more “old fashioned values” in island residents.

The Health Centre is “a part of the community” here and Peter says the level of support is similar to the ways that islanders help other essential services like the lifeboat and air ambulance.

But he says the fact that everyone knows everyone else in such a small place could create problems.

“I’m sure they all look in the GP’s basket at the Co-op to see if they’re eating healthy food,” he joked.

In September, the Health Centre was awarded the highest, ‘Outstanding’ rating by the Care Quality Commission, one of just a handful in the country.

Peter says that’s a huge achievement for Lead GP John Garman and the other staff and partly reflects the innovations they’ve introduced.

He says he was surprised on his first day to be giving a patient an ECG heart scan, which was then beamed wirelessly to the GP’s iPad for analysis.

But Peter also feels it’s the way the centre is being run, which is much more “switched on” than mainland surgeries.

That’s the main thing he’ll take away from his time here, he says. He also says he’d be keen to come back to the islands again when he’s finished his degree next year.