This shocking story on the front of today’s Greenock Telegraph once again shows the crisis in our out of hours GP service in Inverclyde. Our area is being left without GP services while our doctors are sent elsewhere. This is a risk to patients and must stop.
Last week I wrote to Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board asking for this practice to stop and for more transparency so that we know the full extent of the closures. The full text of my letter is below.
Greater Glasgow and Clyde Health Board
10th April 2019
I hope you are well. As you will be aware, over the weekend of 30th March, Inverclyde was without a local out of hours GP service when the out of hours centre was closed for 48 hours. This caused disruption for several patients who had to travel to Paisley for treatment.
A closure for a whole weekend is unprecedented but comes after 45 closures in the year to November 8th 2018. This is unacceptable and represents a withdrawal of an essential local NHS service from people in Inverclyde. People who live in Inverclyde expect that they will be able to access a GP service locally, at any time of the day. Asking people to travel to Paisley puts people who are already in distress in an even more difficult situation.
I know, from conversations with staff across the NHS and their trade unions, that NHS workers are under significant pressure at this time. I also understand that you can only work with what you are given by the Scottish Government, who are not investing enough in NHS services to allow you to properly meet demand.
However, the Health Board needs to be more transparent about closures to Inverclyde’s out of hours service. The only reason we know that the service was closed last weekend is because concerns were raised by patients. At the Health Board Annual Review meeting last month, I asked the Board to routinely publish the number of closures and dates of closures for each out of hours centre. At the meeting you said:
“I think in terms of the closures, you have a reasonable point, in terms of trying to make sure we are clear around our performance around that and we need to address that.”
I would appreciate it if you could outline how you will be addressing this, and I hope that will involve the routine publication of closures.
At the meeting, it was also confirmed that doctors were being moved from Inverclyde to other out of hours centres to “meet demand”. While I understand the pressure on the service, I do not believe it is acceptable for doctors who arrive to work in Inverclyde to be sent to other sites at short notice. As well as “demand” for the service at various sites, consideration should also be given to the distance that people have to travel between sites.
Given Inverclyde’s geography, some patients would face a 50-mile round trip to access out of hours services in Paisley if no services are available locally. I do not believe the Health Board are properly considering this when deciding to move doctors away from Inverclyde to cover shifts elsewhere.
I would appreciate it if you could consider both these issues. Given the significant public interest I will be making this letter public.
Labour Party Candidate for Inverclyde