Patients forced out of over-stretched GP surgery

Bonnyrigg Health Centre. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Bonnyrigg Health Centre. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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ELDERLY patients are among those who have been told to find a new GP as a stretched surgery has been forced to streamline its patient lists to cope with demand.

More than 140 patients have been told they can no longer use Quarryfoot Practice, in Bonnyrigg Health Centre, as their homes are outside the centre’s boundaries.

Practice manager Alison Murphy explained the centre had been forced to clamp down on patients who no longer live within the designated area – 
either because they have moved house or the area has changed over time.

A 77-year-old woman, who lives in nearby Newtongrange, said she was “disturbed” to receive a letter last Friday saying that she and her 84-year-old husband had been removed from the list after being registered for 50 years.

The pensioner, who asked to remain anonymous, said: “We feel like an old pair of shoes which are being thrown out in the waste bin.

“What a way to treat the most vulnerable people in today’s society. Until the last three years we have never been a burden on the NHS as we both enjoyed robust good health, and now we have reached an age where we need some care we are given one month to find another practice.

“I am very disturbed by this, as are all those who received similar letters on Friday, I am sure.”

The news comes amid signs of strain as the rising populations of towns such as Bonnyrigg and Dalkeith places pressure on public services.

Residents in Bonnyrigg have reported waits of up to four weeks for a routine appointment in one of the town’s three surgeries, with more than 600 people calling for faster appointment times as a top priority in a recent neighbourhood survey by Midlothian Council.

Darius Namdaran, chairman of Bonnyrigg and Lasswade community council, said: “Bonnyrigg GPs do a good job but are not keeping up with the 8.3 per cent population boom. They are asking patients to assess whether a condition requires an urgent appointment or a two-to-four-week wait. Nothing in between.”

People are going to accident and emergency departments rather than waiting to see their GP, Mr Namdaran said.

He added: “This system discriminates against those who don’t shout the loudest, or know the right answers to get seen.”

Quarryfoot will continue to support patients until they find a new GP, said practice manager Alison Murphy.

She said: “Historically we had patients in Bonnyrigg who have moved nearby, but outwith our boundaries. We have been able to accommodate this in the past but our list size has grown to such an extent that we had to look at doing something as we didn’t want to have to say we were full up.

“We do realise it is difficult for patients but we do not have much choice.”

The practice, which has two full-time doctors, has seen its roll rise by nearly 300 patients since 2011.

Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, performance reporting and information at NHS Lothian, said: “We are aware that Quarryfoot Medical Practice is adhering to the limits of its boundary.

“This means that patients who have moved outwith the area will be asked to register with a new practice closer to home to ensure that Quarryfoot can continue to deliver safe, effective and timely care for their local population.”