Edinburgh GP crisis: Six practices close to new patients with fears issue 'getting worse with no end in sight'
More doctors surgeries in Edinburgh have closed to new patients, sparking fears that the GP crisis is ‘getting worse with no end in sight’.
The Evening News revealed in September that five practices in the Liberton area were operating restricted lists so they were accepting patients via NHS Lothian, family members or pregnant woman only. At that time the health board claimed it was only two practices.
But now six practices in south of the city are fully closed to new patients including Ferniehill Surgery, Gracemount Medical Practice, Danderhall Medical Practice, The Southern Medical Practice, St Leonards Medical Practice and Liberton Medical Practice. Patients in other areas of the city including Leith and Gorgie have also reported difficulties registering with a GP practice.
Health chiefs said the decision to close six practices had ‘not been taken lightly’ but stressed it was necessary for providing safe patient care. The move comes despite the health board’s own instruction to GP practices not to close or restrict lists. It follows concerns from chiefs at the city’s health and social care partnership that in some parts of the city people struggle to register with a GP.
Labour MP Ian Murray who has campaigned for more investment in new practices in the area has issued a fresh warning that lack of GP access is forcing people to turn up at A&E at the Royal Infirmary.
The director of primary care said the difficulties in the south east were also affecting the boundary between Edinburgh and Midlothian. In the latest report to the Board of Directors Jenny Long said: "My last update outlined that we had formally agreed for two practices to formally close their list to new patients, and we have now agreed that six practices will close their list to new patients. This measure has not been taken lightly but is essential to ensure these practices can maintain safe delivery of care and will be reviewed every three months. This situation is not widespread across the 118 general practices in Lothian but is due to new patient demand from housing developments or an influx of students, combined with sustained difficulty in recruiting sufficient GP cover or constraints with existing premises.”
Ms Long added that patients may be assigned to practices that are ‘not as close to their home address as we would like’, but this will ensure they have access to GP Services. A new primary care email has been set up to deal with enquiries and this will be monitored, she said.
Ian Murray MP said: “The closure of lists in six GP practices, all serving the Liberton Gilmerton ward, is a significant concern for residents in the area. Constituents have been coming to me for months unable to get registered with a practice locally. This is preventing early treatment, forcing people into packed A&E departments, and piling pressure on our fantastic practice staff who are struggling with demand. It’s getting worse and there’s no end in sight.
“8,000 new residents have moved to the south east since 2018 with a further 10,000 expected by 2028. In that time, despite many warning from NHS Lothian to the Scottish Government, we have built no new practices to service these communities.“ GP practice staff are performing heroically but they need help. The new ‘Gilmerton Gateway’ development has the potential to provide a brand new 10,000 capacity practice but it has been placed in doubt due to funding. It is imperative the Scottish Government commit to financing this new practice immediately.”
Ms Long said: “Every GP practice has a defined practice area and, as independent contractors, they are responsible for managing requests from patients who wish to register with them, including ensuring that their practice list size remains safe and manageable for both patients and staff.
“There are six practices out of the 118 across Lothian which have temporarily closed their registration lists to new patients due to exceptionally high increased demand. We continue to monitor the situation and work closely with the practices. We are also working with Health and Social Care Partnerships to explore all options to ensure access and provide potential solutions to the pressures, including new models of delivery, additional capital investment to develop new practices for the future, and expanding multi-disciplinary teams to support practices in the delivery of GP services.
“Anyone unable to find a GP practice in their area can contact the NHS Lothian primary care enquiry inbox ([email protected]) for advice and potential assignment to a practice.”