Edinburgh's Colinton Surgery says letter urging patients to find another GP practice does not mean they have to leave

A GP surgery which sent out letters asking its patients to register with an alternative practice has insisted it is not forcing people to leave.

Colinton Surgery said its letters requested patients who no longer fall within the practice boundary to move to a doctor nearer their home, but did not say they had to.

The letters, which are going out to 750 patients, explain that the practice is under pressure because of new housing in the area, changed boundaries, increased demand and the burdens of Covid – and that despite more consulting rooms and extra staff, there was a six-week wait for pre-booked appointments.

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Lothian Tory MSP Sue Webber wrote in Friday's Evening News about her parents' shock at receiving one of the letters. She said they had lived in the area for 50 years and were just three houses beyond the practice boundary. Ms Webber described the surgery's stance as "unduly harsh for long-standing older customers" and claimed it could leave people without a GP.

But practice manager David Trundle said the aim was to improve the service provided to patients. "It's part of a positive thing we're trying to do because we are not a practice that's got any restrictions on people who are moving into our area and this was a policy, as it explains in the letter, to increase the efficiency of the service we have."

The letter starts: "You are currently residing outwith our new practice boundary. We respectfully ask that you seek to register with an alternative GP surgery which is closer to your home." And it says: “In short we have too many patients registered with us for our current service to continue to provide the quality of service that we wish to deliver to our patients. Unless we reduce our practice list size, we will face a worsening situation particularly with the creation of additional homes within our practice boundary.”

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But Mr Trundle said: "We are not forcing anybody to leave by the letter we have sent. Nowhere in the letter did it say that the service would be withdrawn."

Patients who move house out of a practice area can be told they must register in the new practice area. But the patients receiving the Colinton Surgery letter only find themselves outside its practice area because the boundaries have been moved.

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The surgery is sending out 750 letters urging patients to switch practices. Picture: Google Streetview

Mr Trundle said: "We can't ask them to leave, but we can encourage patients to register at a more local practice. We have discussed it with other practices and we have accommodated other practices doing the same with us."

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But he said patients could choose to stay with the practice if they wanted. And he said no patient would be left without a GP. "Any patients involved in this process would only be de-registered from Colinton Surgery after they had registered at a new medical practice."

He added that the surgery’s letter was in line with what NHS Lothian and the Lothian Medical Council, which represents GPs, encouraged practices to do.

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GP practices across the Capital are under growing pressure, often because of the city’s increasing population. The Evening News reported last week how in south-east Edinburgh alone five GP practices had closed their lists and four were operating severely restricted lists, leaving only four practices open for registrations.

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