Plan to ‘move’ GP service stalls

NHS Lanarkshire now faces massive difficulties – and wall-to-wall objections – in its bid to “move” the crisis-hit GP out of hours service to Airdrie. Added to the cross-party political disquiet or outright opposition, and the fears expressed by community groups, there is now an imperative from the Scottish Government to take into account.

Sunday, 15th February 2015, 1:22 pm

It had already made things awkward for the local consultation by declaring there is to be a national review of the whole service, but this week added fresh emphasis.

NHS Lanarkshire has been told any conclusions must fit whatever strategy is finalised at national level.

And while it waits for that process to take place its favoured option – moving the service out of Cumbernauld for keeps (and also out of Motherwell and Wishaw) – has been comprehensively savaged at local level.

Even if it decided a centralising move was still the best way to proceed it would have to re-establish the service in the teeth of what looks like near-universal opposition.

The developing row over where local people will have to go if they access the GP out of hours service through NHS 24 kicked off at local level in June, when the facility was withdrawn from Cumbernauld’s central health centre.

Local MSP Jamie Hepburn has said there was no indication at that point that it was to be a permanent move – and at that point there was no consultation either.

Then, following a frank admission that the service couldn’t provide enough GPs to man local facilities, NHS Lanarkshire began to look urgently for alternatives.

However its favoured option – which would mean local people having to travel a considerable distance for treatment – has yet to find any takers.

Cumbernauld and Kilsyth MP Gregg McClymont said it was “farcical” the local consultation “ending Cumbernauld’s out of hours service” was still ongoing despite the announcement of a national review, demanding: “Why is Cumbernauld being treated this way by the SNP?”

He says the Scottish Government should “stop this consultation in its tracks” to ensure NHS Lanarkshire is treated fairly, in the same manner as other health boards.

His colleague Mark Griffin MSP said: “From no minor injuries unit as promised, to no new health centre for Carrickstone and Craigmarloch, x-ray services cut and a reduction in our treatment rooms, continuing this latest consultation would just be further evidence of how the SNP Government are giving a raw deal to the people of Cumbernauld and Kilsyth.”

McClymont’s General Election rival, SNP man Stuart McDonald, also says he wants to halt the consultation – but appears to argue that Labour, not his own party, is to blame.

He said: “We need to look again at out of hours provision, and whether the 2004 GP contract negotiated by the former Labour administration is still fit for purpose. Increasingly it looks like it is not”.

The area’s SNP MSP, Jamie Hepburn, said: “I remain seriously concerned by the proposed changes that NHS Lanarkshire have put forward, in which all options they have presented would result in the permanent withdrawal of out-of-hour GP services from Cumbernauld.”

However NHS Lanarkshire says its increasingly beleaguered review will continue.

Dr Andrew Manchip, clinical director of the NHS Lanarkshire Out Of Hours Service, said: “We cannot continue indefinitely with the level of disruption the service is currently experiencing if we are to provide patients with a person-centred, predictable and highly-effective service.

“Continuing our review process is crucial so that we can deliver the safest care possible in the out of hours period.”

A public meeting will be staged on the out-of-hours issue in Cumbernauld early next month.