26 March 2018
Two Labour MSPs are taking action following a patients’ campaign highlighting fears for the future of their rural GPs’ practice.
Highlands and Islands MSPs Rhoda Grant and David Stewart are receiving letters from constituents concerned about the effect of the new GP Contract on the Easdale Medical Practice, on the Isle of Seil, by Oban.
The practice covers a large area consisting of the islands of Seil, Easdale and Luing and the mainland from Kilninver to Kames.
Mrs Grant has written to Health Secretary, Shona Robison, asking what the Scottish Government is doing to ‘rural proof’ the new contract and how it will amend the contract to ensure that rural voices are not drowned out by urban numbers.
Mr Stewart, who is Labour’s Shadow Health Minister and is on the Health and Sport Committee, says the new GP Contract is scheduled to be raised at the committee and he is happy to take up the community’s specific concerns direct with the Government.
The MSPs have received numerous letters from patients following a recent public meeting about the future of the practice.
And, although each patient gives their individual views, they all say changes to the GP Contract, generally supported in urban areas, have very little regard for rural practices.
“One of the changes could be for procedures currently performed at the surgery to be centralised and we’ve been told this would mean patients would have to travel into Oban, or further afield, for just a blood test or vaccination,” explained Mrs Grant.
“One thing I’ve learned about the Scottish Government is that it has a very centralising health agenda and this is already having repercussions in areas such as Skye, Caithness and the Western Isles.
“The Health Secretary needs to listen to rural voices as I predict that it will not only be Argyll patients worried about the future of their doctors’ surgery but many others from across the region.”
Mr Stewart said the community had sung the praises of the GPs and staff already employed but were concerned that services would diminish and move further away.
“What they don’t want to see is a centralised unit encompassing the area and the islands now covered – they are worried over continuity of care,” he said.
“With an increasing elderly population, a shift away from a nearby service to one that is further away is just not acceptable. I’m happy to voice the concerns of patients.”