Fears for sick and elderly as 1700 forced to switch GP practice

Sighthill Health Centre. Picture: Jon Savage
Sighthill Health Centre. Picture: Jon Savage
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HUNDREDS of sick, elderly and other patients needing to see their doctors in the west of Edinburgh face what has been dubbed a “crisis” after being told 1700 of them need to be squeezed into other surgeries because of a failure to recruit a new GP.

Dr Rhein’s Medical Practice, based at Sighthill Health Centre, will close after the senior GP partner announced she will step down. Despite talking to potential replacements, Dr Rhein has decided her patients would be best served by being allocated to other established local GP practices.

Patients of the single-handed practice will now be moved to either of the other practices operating within Sighthill Health Centre with some going to Wester Hailes and Slateford surgeries – despite some operating a restricted registration list. There’s concern about what impact the influx of new patients will have on already overstretched GP practices.

Miles Briggs, Scottish Conservative Lothian MSP, said: “The failure to recruit a new GP at the Sighthill Health Centre GP practice is a reflection of the GP crisis that we have in Scotland. The closure of the Sighthill GP practice is a real loss for the community and practices such as the one at Sighthill will continue to be under threat if SNP Ministers do not start taking this GP crisis seriously.”

In addition, further housing developments in Longstone and the Gyle are set to bring a further 1,000 patients into the Sighthill catchment area within the next five years. Dr Carey Lunan, chairwomen of RCGP Scotland, said practices “simply cannot take on more 
patients”.

She said: “There is a recognised need for more homes in Scotland, especially more affordable housing, but the provision of housing must take account of the ability of general practices and other healthcare providers to offer safe and appropriate health services to these new developments.

“Right across the country, record numbers of practices are already operating with closed or restricted registration lists.”

These views are echoed by Conservative Sighthill/Gorgie councillor, Ashley Graczyk. She added: “There are 1,700 patients being expected to split between existing medical 
practices with restricted or closed lists in the nearby area.

“I would be very interested to know how the Scottish Government expects to provide medical services for the current patients as well as the 1,000 new patients.”

However the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership has vowed there is “sufficient capacity at Sighthill Health Centre to respond to this increase”.

A letter will be sent to all patients at the practice next month allocating them a new GP. Michelle Miller, interim chief Officer of Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership said: “Plans have been agreed for the provision of GP services for patients currently registered at a single-handed practice, which is to close. Our priority is to ensure every patient continues to receive safe, effective care, and we are working with all practices involved to ensure a smooth transition of services and records.”

The Royal College of General Practitioners (Scotland) has predicted a shortage of 856 GPs by 2021.