Village needs more GPs as patients turned away

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DISTRESSED patients have called for urgent action to boost their struggling village doctor’s surgery.

A city-wide lack of GPs and locums means patients of Ratho Medical Centre are routinely forced to travel to Wester Hailes or face lengthy waits for treatment when the surgery’s only doctor is on holiday.

It comes as the Royal College of GPs today hands over a 21,000 signature petition calling on Health Secretary Alex Neil to give its sector a larger slice of government funding.

Research by the body found that one in four Scots cannot get an appointment with their GP within a week while some Lothian patients experience waits of up to a month.

Ratho resident Matt Tildesley, 30, organised a petition after hearing children and elderly were being turned away. The “unacceptable situation” has led to more than 550 people urging the city council to put pressure on NHS bosses to expand services in the area.

“So many people were saying they couldn’t get a doctor’s appointment or the surgery’s closed, all while the village is getting bigger and bigger,” said Mr Tildesley, duty manager at the neighbouring Edinburgh International Climbing Arena.

“The surgery capacity hasn’t increased with the population, it takes in patients from a huge area and it can’t cope.”

Earlier this year, the News revealed how Edinburgh needed 33 new surgeries to cope with its growing and ageing population.

Like many premises across Lothian, the tiny Ratho surgery in Baird Road has been deemed not fit for purpose and is set to be replaced.

Last year, a business case revealed an empty building in Wilkieston Road was the preferred option for a new centre, but progress has stalled.

Issues of staffing are said to have worsened following the retirement of the centre’s regular GP last year with one patient reportedly having to make a 17-mile round trip to Leith for a “crick neck”.

Scottish Conservative health spokesman Jackson Carlaw said there were no excuses for failing to attract GPs. He said: “It would seem that there has been a lack of forward planning and a lack of general focus on this surgery.”

Judy Wightman, chair of Ratho Community Council, said she hoped the petitions committee would force the issue with the health board when it meets on Thursday.

She said: “I want the NHS to provide a doctor every day, I think we deserve to have one.”

Peter Gabbitas, joint director of the Edinburgh health and social care partnership, said plans for a new surgery were going through the “final approval process”.

“Ratho is a single-handed GP practice and therefore it can be more difficult to attract locum cover,” he said. “However we are working closely with the practice to ensure essential cover is in place.”