UNDER-fire Modality GP practices in South Craven and Skipton are showing positive signs of improvement, a meeting heard.

Representatives of the partnership spoke about the challenges it faced with a rising and ageing population, and greater demands on primary care due to the withdrawal of public health services such as stopping smoking and health visitors, the impact of which fell on GP surgeries.

The three Modality representatives – Dr Brendan Kennedy, Lois Brown and Bill Graham – were at a meeting of the Skipton and Ripon area committee of North Yorkshire Council to respond to concerns raised with ward councillors by patients about the Modality practices at Steeton, Cross Hills and Silsden, and Fisher Medical in Skipton.

Following the presentation, the committee agreed that improvements had been made after the introduction of a new appointment system last year, and members requested a progress report in six months time.

Dr Kennedy, a GP partner at Modality, explained how the new appointment system brought in last year had been introduced in response to the level of calls the practices were getting and in an attempt to make it fairer for all, and how it had been one of the first of its kind in the country.

He stressed there had been a misconception that it had gone completely online. Patients were still able to telephone or go into surgeries in person as well to book appointments, but Dr Kennedy accepted that perhaps the introduction of the system could have been handled better.

“We are trying our best as we face the challenges facing primary care at the moment,” he said.

Asked what the council could do to help the GP partnership, Ms Brown said it would be useful if a council representative sat on its patient participation group so they could feed back to the council what was going on.

Skipton councillor Robert Heseltine, who had previously criticised Modality, said he had recently received excellent service from the Fisher Medical practice and he believed that it was improving.

"Obviously you (Modality) are improving but you must keep it up – your patients have no where else to turn," said Cllr Heseltine.

Committee chair, Cllr Richard Foster, said: “Clearly they (Modality) have established a direction of travel, but I think it would be useful to keep an eye on them. I think we need to get a progress report in six months time.”