Edinburgh South Labour MP Ian Murray accuses SNP of blocking moves to ease GP crisis as population booms

Labour’s Ian Murray has accused the SNP of blocking attempts to ease healthcare pressures caused by the population increase from new housing developments in south Edinburgh.

By Ian Swanson
Monday, 14th March 2022, 4:55 am

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A letter from health bosses says a request was made to the Scottish Government in 2020 for a new medical practice in Gilmerton, but “no decision has been reached on this, or on any of the population-related proposals which have been made”.

And the letter also reveals the government instructed the city council not to adopt new guidance on how much developers should contribute to the costs of new infrastructure like GP surgeries.

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Mr Murray, MP for Edinburgh South, said the area was seeing massive new housing development and now had a GP crisis with ten of the 14 practices in the constituency operating closed or severely restricted lists.

He said: "I have been contacted literally hundreds of times by constituents who have moved into a brand new home and immediately faced problems with gaining access to a GP.”

He contacted the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership (EHSCP), which told him a number of steps had been taken to tackle the issue, including grants to practices to increase their list size, re-siting of a practice to the Conan Doyle Medical Centre which absorbed some of the new population, and additional rooms built at Liberton Medical Practice to allow its list to rise.

Ten out of 14 GP practices in Edinburgh South are operating closed or severely restricted lists, says Ian Murray.

The EHSCP said it had been working with the council to identify sites for new premises to be built. “We had hoped to create a single building to house two existing practices and to allow both to expand to absorb the additional population, but we were unable to reach agreement with all the relevant parties.

“A request was made in September 2020 by NHS Lothian to Scottish Government for the establishment of a new medical practice in the Gilmerton area, specifically intended for the new population. No decision has been reached on this, or on any of the other population-related proposals which have been made.”

The letter added a business case for the inclusion of a new medical practice building in the planned new Liberton High School was going through the NHS Lothian capital approval process. “If successful, this will offer greatly improved accommodation to an existing medical practice and add further local capacity.”

The letter also said the EHSCP and the council had prepared statutory guidance on developer contributions towards new infrastructure, including healthcare.

Ian Murray says not enough thought has gone into ensuring adequate healthcare for new developments. Picture: John Devlin.

“Despite a number of attempts by the council to adopt the guidance the Scottish Government ultimately instructed the Council not to adopt it, for various technical reasons.”

The EHSCP told Mr Murray the council currently held £678,000 of developer contributions for healthcare infrastructure.

But it said new medical practices cost £600,000 per 1,000 patients. “The cost of all infrastructure is rising rapidly. Clearly the contributions received to date are not in proportion to the funding required.”

Mr Murray said when he wrote to Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to highlight the problem, the minister redirected him to NHS Lothian.

He has now launched a petition demanding action from the Scottish Government and big housing developers to give communities like Liberton and Gilmerton the facilities they deserve.

He said: “It’s clear that not enough thought has gone into making sure these new houses are supported with healthcare facilities and local infrastructure.

“One of the biggest issues raised with me locally is how hard it is to access a GP.

“Now it has emerged that the SNP government has stood in the way of attempts to ease the pressure, failing to act on proposals for a new GP practice and blocking the council’s guidance on developer contributions.

“At the same time, the Health Secretary has blamed NHS Lothian for not delivering when the health board’s proposed action has been blocked.

“Nowhere near enough money has been collected from house builders to invest in the local community, while the developers are making huge profits.

“The buck stops with the SNP government, which needs to take urgent action to give people in Edinburgh the facilities and communities they deserve.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “This claim is wrong. NHS Lothian is free to develop local services as it sees fit, in co-operation with local health and social care partnerships, identifying the needs of patients in their areas and commissioning GP services appropriately.

“We are working closely with all health boards to support them to evidence the impact of new housing development on health infrastructure and this will help them with securing developer contributions where they are needed.”

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