Thousands of patients face search for new GP

Southside Surgery. Picture: Greg Macvean

Southside Surgery. Picture: Greg Macvean

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Thousands of patients could be forced to find a new GP as a shortage of family doctors has cast doubt over the future of a city practice.

NHS bosses have been parachuted in to run the Southside Surgery, in Newington, after repeated efforts to recruit two new GP partners have failed.

A letter sent to patients by the remaining GPs, Dr Eileen Sanderson and Dr Alyson Reive, said the surgery building will have to be sold by next summer – as it is part-owned by two GPs who have retired – and its 5400 patients could be sent to other practices if a suitable site cannot be found.

The letter said: “Options are however very limited and if (as is likely), no other location can be found, then Lothian Health Board plan to close the practice entirely and disperse our patients to other surgeries in the area.”

NHS Lothian insists it has no plans to close the surgery and it is confident it will find new premises in time. Southside Surgery is the sixth practice to be taken over by NHS Lothian in recent months, after Bangholm, Kirkliston, Leith Links, Polwarth and Eskbridge Medical Practice, in Musselburgh, were struggling to cope. Bangholm and Kirkliston have since returned to independent practice.

It comes after staff at Parkgrove and East Craigs Medical Practice warned patients the surgery could not provide the level of care required due to a “crisis” in primary care.

Moira Purdie, Southside Surgery practice manager, said: “We may face closure if the health board cannot find us anywhere to go.

“People do know there is a problem with general practice but they need to be aware how difficult things are.”

Nearby surgeries are also under pressure as the Grange Medical Group has closed its list and St Leonard’s Medical Centre, in the Pleasance, only recently reopened to new patients.

Daniel Johnson, Edinburgh Southern Labour MSP, said: “The closure, which could happen by next summer, would only add to the crisis in capacity at GP surgeries affecting the whole of the Lothians.

“It will add more strain to other local surgeries, many of which are at breaking point in terms of patient numbers and resources.”

Practices across Lothian have struggled due to a nationwide crisis in recruiting family doctors, with one in four of Lothian’s 127 surgeries restricting its lists to new patients to cope with demand.

Dr Miles Mack, chair of the Royal College of GPs Scotland, said: “Edinburgh traditionally has been the place to be a GP so the fact that the city is struggling to recruit is very worrying.

“A couple of years ago it was mostly practices in remote and rural areas, and out of hours, that found it difficult to recruit but it seems the problem is across the whole of Scotland.”

George Walker, chair of the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We reiterate that we have no plans to close Southside Surgery. A great deal of work is being undertaken to secure premises well ahead of the expected deadline and are confident that this will be achieved.”