MOVES to merge two city GP surgeries in new centralised premises have sparked concerns about how elderly patients will get to the doctor’s.
Health bosses are looking at the option of combining Hermitage and Morningside medical practices and relocating both to a new £9 million health centre in the grounds of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital.
But locals said the move could make it more difficult for patients with mobility problems to get to the surgery because it is further to walk and less handy for buses.
Steve Gregory, secretary of Morningside Community Council, said: “Both these practices inevitably have a lot of elderly patients. Morningside Medical Practice is right by a bus stop and Hermitage is not far from one.
“But it’s a fair step from Morningside Road to get to the grounds of the Royal Edinburgh Hospital – and we don’t know where it is going to be in the grounds.”
It is understood the merger suggestion was prompted by the need to plan ahead for the expiry of the lease on the Hermitage practice, based in Hermitage Terrace.
Mr Gregory said Morningside was a custom-built medical practice and Hermitage was in a row of houses.
He said: “If it’s a matter of accommodation in one of the practices, you would think it was possible to resolve that without disrupting all the patients in another practice as well. Merging one practice with another and shifting them both to a relatively inaccessible place is not something people are likely to welcome.”
A report to the Integration Joint Board (IJB), which is now responsible for healthcare in the Capital, said the new centre could mean an increase in capacity and the building would be needed by 2021.
The draft Population/Premises plan said: “Phase 3 Royal Ed development offers potential site for Hermitage/Morningside re-provision.”
Conservative health spokesman and Lothians MSP Miles Briggs said it was right that NHS Lothian and the IJB was planning ahead and assessing which GP practices need new buildings.
“But it is also essential they take the views of local residents on board as they look to redesign these services,” he added.
“I am very aware that Morningside residents believe the current two locations for local GP services are well served by good bus links which makes accessing them easy for people of all ages and I know that they will want to be reassured that any new site is just as well served by public transport.”
Morningside Tory councillor Nick Cook said: “Any future changes to local GP provision would present huge change for the community.
“Any changes must be subject to residents’ views and command public confidence. Were changes to be undertaken, NHS Lothian must ensure our GP services remain convenient and accessible for all.”
A spokeswoman for NHS Lothian insisted the merger suggestion in the report was only an option which was being discussed, adding: “Demand for NHS services is high and is only likely to increase – that’s why we are in constant conversation with all practices to ensure good GP access.”