GPs slam move to axe car parks

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MANAGERS at a city medical centre have criticised NHS Lothian after it decided to axe both its staff and patient car parks.

Staff at the Stockbridge Health Centre have been told the car parks will close later this month due to cutbacks at the health board.

The 26 spaces had been leased from the city council for around £29,500 per year, which NHS Lothian said was no longer affordable. The city council raised the cost of the lease significantly several years ago, which had come to an end recently.

Doctors said the health board told them they could pay for the car park out of their own budget, used to pay salaries and treat patients, which one described as “ridiculous”.

Fears have been raised that the lack of parking will make it more difficult for patients to attend appointments.

The centre is comprised of two separate practices – the Blue Practice and Green Practice – which together have around 45 staff and around 16,000 patients.

Green Practice manager Linda Skeldon, also administrator for the centre overall, said: “NHS Lothian did a ‘rapid impact assessment’ in late July and in September we received a letter saying the health board wouldn’t pay any more.

“We are quite disappointed because the health board said they would consult patient groups which didn’t happen.We’re having to explain to them this week that they’ll have to find alternate transportation.

“It’s a huge change for our staff as well. I come from Musselburgh, and there’s not a direct bus route. Other staff come from further away.”

Blue Practice manager Susan Duncan added: “The health centre was formed years ago when the NHS asked three surgeries to move to the facility with the promise of parking spaces, so to move the goal posts down the line is a little unfair.”

The centre has collected 500 signatures from patients to urge NHS Lothian to consider keeping the car parks.

As well as two car parks, the centre has nine spaces for doctors, which allow them to carry out a home visit service. One doctor said this service is now likely to be lost

In response, Robert Aitken, acting general manager of the Edinburgh Community Health Partnership at NHS Lothian, said: “We recently carried out a review of all the leases we hold with the council. This highlighted that we pay for car parking for Stockbridge Health Centre at a cost of £29,500.

“We do not provide this service to any other GP practice or health centre in Edinburgh. We have offered to share the cost with Stockbridge Health Centre but this was declined.”

rory.reynolds@edinburghnews.com