Communitas Clinics – Award-Winning Customer Service Case Study

We are producing a series of reports covering entries from the recent GO Excellence in Public Procurement Awards. They are chosen from categories for which Peter Smith was a judge, so they were studied very carefully, and each one is featured based on how interesting we felt it would be for our readers, rather than on whether it won the award (but in this case it did).

We’ve been talking to some of the team from Communitas Clinics (CC), winner of the GO Best Service (Health and Social) Award 2015. Communitas Clinics delivers four NHS community, patient-led clinical services to the populations of Croydon, Havering, Greenwich and Bexley. Its Intermediate Community Dermatology Service (ICDS) provides care for people with dermatological conditions which do not require the skills of secondary care using a ‘see, treat and discharge’ model.

The introduction of the service has meant patients can be diagnosed and treated, with one-stop minor surgery operations where needed, without enduring long waiting lists or taking up GP or hospital time. It is owned and managed by GP members and works closely with a wide range of NHS partners with the aim of enhancing the quality of NHS services to its patients and to GPs. Its most recent contract, the Havering Community Dermatology Service, posed some real challenges which they did not allow to interfere either with launch timeframes or quality of service. So this is a supply-side story of a team that won the contracts and worked very closely with commissioners and NHS bodies to establish intermediary healthcare in the community precisely where and when the patients require it, even against initial strong GP negativity. And this is why we liked this case study.

We asked the team, Christian Lyons, CEO, Anna Bernard, New Business and Service Manager, and Lucy McCabe, Service Manager, why they had entered the awards, Christian told us:

“It was really about recognition for the team who have been so dedicated, worked so hard and produced some excellent results. It really was a great project to work on, and the commissioners were not only easy to work with, they gave us tremendous support. This is also a way of showing them just how much their support has benefitted the project.”

The team faced some stiff challenges from the outset of mobilisation, especially with regard to the Havering Community Dermatology Service. As the GO Award submission says:

“GP resistance was initially a challenge in Havering. ICDS was one of the first Intermediate Services introduced in the borough and the CCG advised of negative GP feedback, the majority of whom favoured hospital treatment.” Alongside this, the timely delivery of quality discharge letters had proved another huge challenge with service volumes and pressure on the administration team growing.

But Communitas Clinics worked very hard to overcome these obstacles. They ran educational events for GPs focusing on marketing/promotion of the service to manage the resistance. Working closely with GPs during mobilisation meant relationships were built and issues addressed as they arose. Its focus on upskilling local clinicians to improve patient care, with support from GPwSI, engendered confidence. CC worked closely with Primary Care colleagues to develop a referral form that was compatible with all clinical systems and was easy and quick to use, encouraging high-quality GP referrals.

Commissioners were expecting mobilisation within 1 month of contract start date. Relying on previous experience, extensive planning and established processes CC’s forward thinking resulted in mobilisation within 7 days of contract start date and 100 percent of GPs are now referring. The team said:

“We helped to mould the very detailed and complex procurement process which took longer than expected. But with tremendous teamwork from the CCG we were able to launch in the timeframe. Communication before awarding the contract was excellent. For example, as part of the tender we had to agree the exact location we were going to work from. We did a lot of PR, held a lot of events, worked closely with commissioners, and communicated widely. As a result of we were able to mobilise very quickly.”

There are messages for procurement teams in this case study too - for instance, the need for strong communication with the market and bidders, before during and after the actual tendering process; and the need to focus hard on mobilisation as a key factor in both suppleir selection and delivery plans.So the buy-side players here deserve credit as well as Communitas!

And the project has delivered outstanding results. The Service Specification outlined an expectation of movement from secondary care to ICDS. Havering has already exceeded the KPI by 9 percent and is expecting over-performance by 35 percent by end of the second year. All Monthly KPIs set by commissioners are being consistently met or exceeded. Excellent patient communication, reduced waiting times and reaction to patient feedback has led to high user satisfaction rates. Questionnaires have consistently returned rates of satisfaction of over 99 percent. This is a very deserved customer service success story. Commissioners are receiving value for money and better data and metrics, and patients timely and quality care.

“We are here to represent the whole team. It is a fantastic achievement for all of us. Winning the award is a badge of honour for the company, it will appear on all our tender documents and for all our stakeholders it emphasises quality of service. We have grown very quickly and workloads have dramatically increased. This is a boost to morale.”

photo courtesy GO Awards

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