AMBITIOUS plans for a purpose-built medical centre could attract more doctors to a struggling village surgery, it has been claimed.
The blueprints for the new Ratho GP practice have finally been rubberstamped by planning bosses, allowing work to begin on replacing the tiny Baird Road surgery with a site across the village.
The new medical centre will boast five consulting rooms, one treatment room, a waiting area and a staff meeting room, to meet the needs of the area’s growing population.
The health board has struggled to attract locum cover for the crumbling surgery after the practice’s full-time doctor retired last year.
Residents have reported waits of more than three weeks for an appointment, as well as incorrectly labelled prescriptions by a stretched workforce.
Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, performance reporting and information at NHS Lothian, said: “This is great news for Ratho surgery and for the local community.
“The new surgery will provide improved and modern accommodation for the growing local population and for the staff who work there.”
The current doctor has been off work since the end of June but NHS Lothian has assured the villagers that cover is in place.
Mr McMahon said: “NHS Lothian is committed to sustaining GP services for Ratho and the surrounding population. We are confident that the new building will help to play a positive role in the long-term future of Ratho surgery.
“The new surgery will be modern, purpose-built and have space for expansion, as the population of Ratho increases as will the number of staff based within the surgery.”
Ratho faces a “chicken and egg” situation, as its population is too low to justify more than one doctor, with around 2200 patients on the current rolls compared to most Capital surgeries which have an average list size of 7000.
But practices with only one GP – known as single-handed practices – traditionally find it more difficult to attract locum doctors due to fears over the workload.
Judy Wightman, chair of Ratho and District Community Council, said: “We are delighted that the surgery is a step closer and we look forward to is being built.
“We have a bit of a chicken and an egg situation as the number of patients has not gone up so we haven’t got enough people for another doctor, but then people are not going to join the surgery if they know they won’t be able to see a doctor for weeks.”
She added: “The new surgery is definitely going to make it a more attractive job, as far as I can see.”
Construction is expected to start by the end of the year and NHS Lothian has promised that the new facility will open to patients by the middle of 2016.
Mark Keane, from the Kiltane Group developers, said: “We are delighted that planning has been approved for this new development.
“We look forward to working closely with NHS Lothian over the next few months as we develop the detailed designs.”
The designs of the new surgery will be shared with the local community once they are developed.
It is understood the top floor could be let out to a dental surgery, while the surgery will occupy the ground floor.