MSPs say builders ‘must pay for new GP surgeries’

A development planned for Leith.
A development planned for Leith.
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MASSIVE new housing developments proposed for the Capital have prompted growing calls for action to ensure adequate medical provision.

City politicians have backed calls by Edinburgh Western Liberal Democrat MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton for a change in planning law to require developers to pay for new GP surgeries in under-pressure areas.

He wants councillors to be able to insist on new medical centres as a condition of developments going ahead, just as they can already require a new school or changes to roads.

NHS Lothian bosses recently warned that the lack of family doctors meant half of all GP practices in the Capital could soon be turning away new patients.

Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “There is a national shortage of GPs, but the main problem in West Edinburgh is the pressure on existing surgeries, which cannot recruit because although Edinburgh is a prime choice for GPs, ­no-one wants to work in a practice that’s on its knees. They want a sustainable level of work.

“If you could spread the load by building new surgeries in the new developments, we could relieve the pressure across the whole area and make jobs in existing surgeries more attractive.”

Dr Martin Williams, a GP in the west of Edinburgh, said: “There is no legal requirement for the council to consult with the health board about planning permission, so what has happened over 50 years is that planning decisions have been made and the health board has to tidy up the mess.

“The council has responsibility for providing education, drainage and roads, but not to plan medical services for the new incoming community.”

He said one full-time GP was needed for every 1700 people, adding that most Edinburgh practices were now at saturation point.

“The practices on the edge of the city, where these new developments are planned, will just not be able to cope,”

Lothian Conservative MSP Miles Briggs backed Mr Cole-Hamilton’s call.

He said: “It’s a good suggestion. It’s high time we did start planning services ahead of people turning up and living in an area – that’s how you have happy, healthy communities. Otherwise people find themselves living somewhere where they can’t get to see a GP.”

And Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray said of Mr Cole-Hamilton’s call: “It’s a good idea. We need to ensure proper provision of public services everywhere.

“The entire planning system needs updated. The whole Local Development Plan process has been a disaster.”

ian.swanson@edinburghnews.com