Penarth GP Practices Merge to Ensure Continued Patient Care

28 February 2019

On October 1st 2018, the Penarth Healthcare Partnership opened for business for the first time. This was the result of the merging of Station Road Surgery and Stanwell Health Centre. 

Station Road Surgery was a 5200 patient practice in the heart of Penarth. It was a stable practice but had out-grown the woefully inadequate premises, there were patient safety issues, and the landlords, all former GPs coming up to retirement, were obviously keen to sell the premises. An experienced partner had also recently resigned. Stanwell Health Centre, the largest practice in Penarth with over 8000 patients, suffered the tragic loss of their well respected senior partner in April 2017, and a second GP moving on shortly after had left them in a precarious position. Its three remaining partners, suffering psychologically from the loss of a respected friend and colleague, the inevitable additional workload, the financial burden of using locums to deliver the service, and inability to recruit replacements, felt that they had to consider the option of handing their General Medical Services contract back to the NHS.

Penarth was faced with the very real possibility of 5000 patients being left without a practice premises and 8000 patients having the right premises but no GPs to run a service. Nearly 14000 patients, half the population of the town, would not have access to local GP services.

Both practices were passionate about primary care and were desperate to find a solution to allow them to continue the delivery of local GP services in Penarth. GP partners, Dr Christian Ogden of Stanwell and Dr Jonathan Griffin of Station Road had the initial conversation about the possibility of merging the two practices in June 2017. On paper, this option ticked all of the boxes. All that was needed was to secure the additional rooms in the health centre that were being used by the Health Board to free up  the space required to accommodate the approximately 14000 patients and to recruit an additional three GPs to meet  the demand. Initial conversations with Cardiff & Vale University Health Board’s Primary Community and Intermediate Care team were encouraging and a meeting with Vaughan Gething lead to Welsh Government support. The initial merger date of April 1st 2018 slipped to July 1st 2018 and then finally to October 1st 2018.

The hurdles to get over, were: to recruit the GPs needed to replace any outgoing staff, merge the two clinical systems, and the logistics of moving all staff, furniture and equipment from Station Road into Stanwell Health Centre; all while continuing to deliver the regular services.

Despite what was considered in meticulous preparation there were some problems along the way towards the merger. However, it is easy to underestimate what was achieved and the scale of the project. The positives shouldn’t be ignored; first and foremost, the future of primary care for the 14000 patients is secured indefinitely. Two partners and one salaried GP were recruited, and given current difficulties with recruitment, that was a success in itself. All three GPs sighted the opportunity of working in a large practice, the potential of an MDT approach, and the practice being a GP training practice and undergraduate teaching centre of excellence as a few of the reasons they were attracted to the role. At time of writing the nursing staff have dovetailed perfectly, the practice administrative staff roles and processes are developing quickly and the original partners from the two practices are all feeling invigorated.

There is still a lot of work to be done, specifically around patient flow and the new practice is currently working out what appointment ratios are needed to cope with the demand of the practice population. For the GPs there is a very different way of working. Looking after 5000 patients when on call is, of course, very different to looking after 14000. Patients from Station Road have had to get used to seeing their GP in a new health centre, and although the building on Station Road was way past its sell-by date, it was quirky and much loved by staff and patients alike.

Senior Partner, Dr Jonathon Griffin, is delighted with the progress, hard work and achievements so far, and has said: “We must not look at last week, today, next week or even next month, but keep our eyes on the bigger picture; the secured future of primary care in Penarth for the next year and in 10 years time, and I genuinely believe we have achieved that.”

If you have questions about practice mergers in Cardiff and the Vale of Glamorgan please contact