Musselburgh health system on point of collapse, say residents

The refurbished Fisherrow Centre in Musselburgh was the scene of the community meeting
The refurbished Fisherrow Centre in Musselburgh was the scene of the community meeting
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ANGRY patients in an East Lothian town have told harrowing stories of a local health system at the point of collapse.

About 200 people crammed into the Fisherrow Centre in Musselburgh to hear desperate experiences of the sick being hospitalised while waiting up to a month for GP appointments.

Meeting organiser Martin Whitfield MP and MSP Kezia Dugdale vowed to raise concerns with Riverside Medical Practice – the second largest in the Lothians serving 19,000.

“The doctors don’t know you,” said asthma sufferer and dance teacher Louise Collie, 45.

“When you phone up you have to fight for an appointment,” she added.

To gasps from the audience, the mother-of-one told how she was rushed to hospital in March after a chest infection developed into pneumonia.

She spent six weeks getting sicker while trying to get an appointment and phoning NHS 24 to be diagnosed antibiotics and steroids but without success.

Others with long-standing health problems also told of trying to get repeat prescriptions from a pharmacist, only to be told they need to see a doctor but with no appointments available. Another speaker told how a terminal cancer sufferer has repeatedly failed to be seen by a doctor – and now has an 18-mile round trip to the Western General for blood tests.

Other issues included fears vulnerable patients are struggling to get through on blocked phone lines and reports of online appointments to be introduced.

One mother-of-two said she feared worse was to come with hundreds of new homes for the area – to raucous applause from the audience.

BMA representative and Dundee GP, Dr Andrew Cowie, said: “It’s a big problem, we have no control over people building 200 new houses or a new nursing home.”

Under planning laws, developers must contribute to new school places but no such provision exists for GPs. Dr Cowie said problems in Musselburgh are echoed around the country with a shortfall of 900 GPs and medical students opting for more attractive careers.

Those GPs that remain are over-stretched and can decamp to England to be paid £1,000-a-day, said Dr Cowie.

“We’re trying to support you and we’re trying to keep you safe while we build a service we can be proud of,” he added, describing colleagues as “heartbroken” by the pressures.

Ms Dugdale added: “What you are experiencing is happening the length and breadth of the country.”

Having met with surgery representatives, Ms Dugdale said she was “really disappointed” none had made the meeting but felt they feared a “public lynching”.

Mr Whitfield praised surgery staff and said: “They are working in very difficult circumstances. They’re very busy and this is bigger than the staff can deal with.”

The surgery forms part of Musselburgh Primary Care Centre, located on Inveresk Road in the town.

None of the partners at Riverside Medical Practice were available yesterday but surgery manager Una Kerr said concerns will be listened 
to.

andy.shipley@edinburghnews.com