Baby Grace, the 1,000th patient at the Cumberland GP Practice, with mum Louise

A pioneering GP practice which is the first to be run jointly between a university and a NHS primary care provider, is celebrating its 1,000th patient since opening its doors in February 2013.

The Cumberland GP practice in Devonport, Plymouth, is a joint venture between Plymouth University and Plymouth Community Healthcare.

The practice has two part-time GPs and two nurse practitioners. Both the lead GP and nurse practitioner have joint appointments with Plymouth University. The team provides GP-led care to patients, but also combines that with on-the-spot training of medical and nursing students from Plymouth University and a growing range of partnerships with local providers of services to help patients with housing, money problems, education and training, nutrition and anything that can help improve health.

Students have first-hand experience of meeting and treating patients with a wide range of conditions and backgrounds, under the supervision of the Cumberland team. As well as contributing to local patients’ care, students also carry out outreach activities with local groups representing the elderly, the very young, families, the homeless and substance abusers.

As a consequence the students have a positive impact on a community for which health inequalities are a bigger issue than elsewhere in Plymouth.

Combined with patient care and community outreach is a programme of research which, with colleagues at Plymouth University, sees a range of research projects with meaningful objectives to improve human health and health care delivery beyond Plymouth itself.

The practice also has a close relationship with Plymouth University’s Devonport Dental Education Facility next door. This is run by the Peninsula Dental Social Enterprise and is where the University’s dental students provide treatment to NHS patients under the supervision of qualified dental health professionals, as part of their training. There is a healthy cross-referral of patients from one organisation to the other. 

The practice’s 1,000th patient is Grace Marshall who was born in August this year. Grace lives in Mount Wise, Plymouth, with mum Louise Bromley, 39, and dad Mick Marshall, 45.

Dr Richard Ayres at the Cumberland GP practice has helped Louise and Mick to overcome health issues related to problems with drugs, antidepressants and alcohol, and both are benefiting from his assistance.

Mick is a volunteer at the Baptist church where he helps run the outreach café and provides catering for the recovery group.

He said: “Our original doctor left the area and we were worried about changing, but Dr Ayres has been brilliant. He has helped me be clean of alcohol for over 18 months now, and he has got us a Get Fit pass for the gym and swimming pool so we can keep up a healthier lifestyle. He has also helped me get on courses in maths and English so I can improve my skills.”
He added: “Cumberland is a good practice, right on our doorstep with lots of things they can do for you. I’d recommend it to anyone.”
Dr Richard Ayres is lead GP at the Cumberland GP practice and clinical lecturer at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry. He said: “We are leading the way in embedding the training of the healthcare professionals of the future with addressing health inequalities in our area, and we are the only partnership between healthcare education and NHS primary care provision to do it in this way. Jointly with Plymouth Community Healthcare we are nurturing empathetic healthcare professionals who will enter the workplace with valuable experience of care ‘at the sharp end’, while at the same time providing a valuable health service to our community.”
He added: “We are delighted that little Grace is our 1,000th patient, and she and her family join a growing number of local people who are benefiting from what we have to offer.”
Professor Raymond Playford, Deputy Vice-Chancellor and Professor of Medicine at Plymouth University, added: “Richard is absolutely correct to say that we are leading the way in developing empathetic and clinically-skilled health care professionals. The Cumberland GP practice and our partnership with Plymouth Community Healthcare are two excellent examples of the many innovative ways in which we give our students meaningful interaction with the widest spectrum of patients – while at the same time contributing to the availability and quality of care available to people in the area. My congratulations go to Richard and his team for reaching this significant landmark.”