COMMENT: This is a basic service we must get right

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THERE are some things which we all have a right to take for granted.

While we have been forced to accept inevitable cutbacks to public services in recent years, healthcare has rightly been protected from the axe.

And the most basic form of healthcare – the right to see your own GP when you need to – should be a given.

No question.

Today’s news then that one in four GP surgeries in the Lothians is now turning away new patients is not just worrying, it’s a scandal.

It’s an issue caused by a nationwide shortage of GPs which has been growing and can hardly be said to have caught health chiefs off guard. What plans have been put in place to solve the problem have clearly failed so far and it’s time to go back to the drawing board.

We need, as Sarah Boyack says today, urgent action and a clear national strategy for fixing this as the ageing population of the Lothians continues to grow and demand on primary care services increases.

Healthcare is going to be one of the major issues at the upcoming Holyrood elections and this is one of several problems which simply cannot be ignored.

We’ve heard stories of people on hold endlessly to their local surgeries before either giving up on making an appointment or securing one in a month’s time.

Meanwhile, some doctors are said to be resorting to only accepting the first 25 patients who register at 8am each Tuesday.

Everyone appreciates resources are tight at the moment but this is a basic service which any developed country must be able to get right.

The situation at the moment is hitting the most vulnerable in society and must be tackled as a priority.

At best being unable to get a GP appointment is inconvenient and annoying. At worst, it could be putting lives at risk.