FRESH misery has been heaped upon villagers who have been left without a permanent doctor after their only GP called in sick.
Tiny Ratho Surgery, in Baird Road, has struggled to cope after the full-time GP retired last year, with patients reporting mixed-up prescriptions and waits of up to three weeks for an appointment.
One patient, who asked not to be named, even claimed some individuals were now being advised to go to accident and emergency at St John’s Hospital in Livingston – something NHS Lothian strenuously denied.
The retired 68-year-old said: “It’s a total shambles. I know they have promised us a new surgery but in the meantime everyone is suffering.
“Other surgeries in the area are not taking people on. Even if they were, there are a lot of patients here who have not got any means of transport.
“I have an appointment on July 1 but I was told they could not say whether I would actually be able to see the doctor or not.
“This situation isn’t fair to anyone in the village.”
NHS Lothian lodged blueprints for a new purpose-built medical centre in Wilkieston Road in April, but there are serious concerns over what will be done in the interim period.
It is understood the surgery’s doctor – who only works part time – is expected to be off work for a number of weeks.
Health chiefs had identified a long-term locum to take on a permanent role, but it was revealed last month that the doctor had decided not to take up the post.
Judy Wightman, chairwoman of Ratho and District community council, said: “I know it is difficult for NHS Lothian and I just hope our new surgery will be able to recruit some new doctors.”
Nearby surgeries such as Kirkliston and Pentlands are also struggling, she said, which left Ratho patients with few choices.
The news comes amid reports of a national GP “recruitment crisis”, with more than 2000 patients forced to switch GP in April as Leith Links Medical Centre was unable to replace three GPs who had left.
Professor Alex McMahon, director of strategic planning, performance reporting and information at NHS Lothian, said: “I’d like to apologise again for the disruption at Ratho Surgery. We understand how frustrating and unsettling a time this has been for patients.
“Unfortunately, the only GP at the practice has unexpectedly had to take leave. We have secured another doctor to help stabilise the service until our GP can return to work.
“In the meantime, we are currently working with another GP practice to triage all calls to Ratho and provide care and treatment on an individual patient basis. Anyone who requires an appointment urgently will always be seen and urgent house calls are also being covered by a neighbouring practice.”