The Health Minister has slammed NHS Tayside over its handling of the closure of the Bridge of Earn GP surgery, and told Murdo Fraser MSP how she had decided to raise the matter “directly” with the health body.
Jeane Freeman described the matter of the Bridge of Earn GP surgery closure as being “not well handled” by NHS Tayside during a Portfolio question from the Scottish Conservative politician at Holyrood.
The Health Minister’s scathing criticism of NHS Tayside was prompted by Mr Fraser telling her that hundreds of extra patients were added to the lists of Perth GP practices – without any consultation – following the shock closure of the Bridge of Earn GP surgery.
Mr Fraser had initially asked Ms Freeman what the Scottish Government’s response was to reports that, since 2009, the number of GP practices in NHS Tayside area had fallen from 69 to 63, while the average practice list increased.
Commenting on the matter, Mr Fraser said: “I welcomed the response provided to me at the Scottish Parliament by the Health Minister and it was very interesting to hear her slamming NHS Tayside over its handling of the closure of the Bridge of Earn GP surgery.
“Of course, this move was not only a massive shock to the residents in Bridge of Earn but it also led to the displacement of many of the 3,500 patients who had used that surgery, with hundreds being allocated to alternative GP practices in Perth – a move that put undue pressure on the GPs working there.
“And, this also resulted in many Perth patients having to wait a long time to get a GP appointment – an issue I also raised with the Health Minister at the Scottish Parliament.”
In her response to Mr Fraser asking about what measures the Scottish Government can take to assist with the problem of the allocation of hundreds of patients to GP practices in Perth, she said: “As Mr Fraser and I know, the Bridge of Earn practice closure was—this is probably the best way to describe it—not well handled. We have raised the matter directly with NHS Tayside, to ensure that there is no repetition of that.”
The Bridge of Earn GP surgery notified health bosses in August that it was to terminate its contract after it was unable to find replacements for two doctors who had stated they were to leave the practice.
*Attached is a transcript of the Portfolio question lodged by Murdo Fraser and the subsequent verbal exchange between him and the Health Minister.
To ask the Scottish Government what its response is to reports that, since 2009, the number of general practitioner practices in NHS Tayside has fallen from 69 to 63, while the average practice list size has increased. (S5O-03926)
The reduction in GP practice numbers in Tayside is, in part, the result of practice mergers since 2009. Mergers can prevent practices, particularly small or single-handed ones, from closing, by reducing risk and increasing resilience. In addition, three practices have closed in Tayside since 2009. Bridge of Earn, Ardler and Stobswell were all small independent practices.
The Government has put a number of measures in place to support GP practices; I am happy to ensure that Mr Fraser has details of those measures.
I have been contacted by a constituent in Perth who expressed concern about the times that they have to wait to get a GP appointment. The situation has been made much worse recently, following the closure of the GP practice in Bridge of Earn and the allocation—without any consultation—of hundreds of extra patients to the lists of city GP practices. What more can the Scottish Government do to assist with the situation?
As Mr Fraser and I know, the Bridge of Earn practice closure was—this is probably the best way to describe it—not well handled. We have raised the matter directly with NHS Tayside, to ensure that there is no repetition of that. I think that we have also been in contact with the GPs from the practice and the practice to which patients have been reallocated, and we have offered to hear from them whether there are additional measures that we could offer and which they would find useful in enabling them to accommodate the additional patients.
The final point is that, as Mr Fraser knows, the issue of primary care and GP practices is not just about GP numbers; it is about the whole multidisciplinary team. I am pleased to say that, across NHS Tayside, including in Perth, we have seen a significant increase in the number of multidisciplinary teams. Those teams use the professional skills of advanced nurse practitioners, pharmacists and pharmacist assistants, and physiotherapists. There is more to do, and I am happy to take any specific suggestions Mr Fraser might have with respect to the specific GP practice that he referred to.