Strathesk, Pathhead GPs turn away patients as crisis deepens

Derek Milligan outside Strathesk practice. Picture: Gordon Fraser
Derek Milligan outside Strathesk practice. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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TWO more GP practices have restricted access to new patients as the Lothians’ healthcare crisis deepens.

Strathesk Medical Practice has shut its list, while Pathhead Medical Practice will take on a maximum of ten new patients a week.

The fresh blow comes just weeks after the Evening News revealed that one in four GP surgeries across the Lothians is turning away new patients.

The situation has deteriorated rapidly in the last six months, when only a fifth of the region’s 127 practices were having to restrict access to doctors.

A nationwide shortage of GPs has meant practices are unable to fill vacancies and more than 30 Lothian surgeries are struggling to cope.

Opposition councillors in Midlothian have now called on the ruling SNP administration to explain why it blocked earlier attempts to address GP shortages in Midlothian.

The Dalkeith, Bonnyrigg and Newbattle surgeries also recently began turning away new patients.

Labour said it asked the council leadership in May last year to call for urgent Scottish Government action to tackle the GP crisis – a move which was defeated by a single vote.

Labour group leader Councillor Derek Milligan said: “All we were doing was suggesting ways in which preventative action could be taken and the SNP blocked the motion.

“Now we are in a crisis that anyone could see was coming. A crisis that is only going to get worse, with restrictions or closures coming now on almost a weekly basis.”

Other councillors said the recent restrictions were the tip of the iceberg and that other practices were facing immense pressure.

Labour councillor Jim Muirhead said: “This is a blow, not only to those that rely on these practices, but also to surrounding practices, such as Newbyres in Gorebridge, which is already struggling to cope with ever increasing patient numbers.

“Sooner or later something has to give. We are being told by the Scottish Government that we need to allocate more and more land to housing and we are going to see areas like Gorebridge increase in population by over 70 per cent over the next few years, but we simply don’t have the infrastructure to cope.

“The SNP administration needs to stand up for Midlothian’s interests even if it means challenging the SNP in Holyrood ”

A spokesperson for the SNP Midlothian group said: “SNP councillors in Midlothian continue to work hard for Midlothian, working with the Scottish Government whilst Labour spend their time sniping from the sidelines.”

Professor Alex McMahon, NHS Lothian director of strategic planning, said:“GP practices in NHS Lothian are working hard to maintain access for patients but many are unfortunately facing difficulties in recruiting GPs.

“The decision to introduce temporary restrictions is never taken lightly but allows practices to remain both safe and effective.”