As Edinburgh people struggle to get GP and dentist appointments, Health Secretary Humza Yousaf just shrugs his shoulders – Ian Murray MP
Nearly two years ago, NHS Lothian made a request to the SNP government for a new GP practice in the south of the capital.
The need for new facilities was urgent then, and is an emergency now. But it’s been radio silence from the government.
Instead, I received a letter from an official on his behalf which washed the government’s hands of the crisis.
This was an issue for NHS Lothian to resolve, the letter said. A shrug of the shoulders.
What a ridiculous way to treat our health service: underfund it, understaff it, and pass the buck when those on the frontline ask for assistance.
And what a kick in the teeth to Edinburgh’s residents who are facing incredible difficulty in accessing GP and dentist services.
I know from my inbox that this is one of the biggest issues facing people in the city.
There are around 4,000 new homes being built in the south of Edinburgh right now, many are already lived in, and the new-build total could be 8,000 by the end of the decade.
But the vital facilities that residents need are not being created at the same time. So it’s virtually impossible to register with an NHS dentist in the area, or easily access GP services.
The SNP government needs to step in today and agree to the request for a new practice in Gilmerton as a starting point.
But it needs wider action than that to ensure a crisis like this isn’t repeated elsewhere in the city or across Scotland.
When housebuilders receive planning permission for new developments, they are usually required to make a financial contribution for local facilities.
But the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership has revealed that total developer contributions for healthcare infrastructure for all parts of Edinburgh stand at just £678,000.
New medical practices cost £600,000 per 1,000 patients.
So, as the partnership has admitted, there is simply nowhere near enough cash in the pot to build the facilities our city so desperately needs.
The council wants to do more, which is why it produced local guidance on developer contributions including healthcare facilities.
However, the Scottish Government has, in the words of the partnership, “instructed the council not to adopt it”.
So not only has the SNP stood in the way of a new GP practice being built, it is now standing in the way of measures to raise funds for more practices right across the city.
It’s one thing to do nothing, but this government is being deliberately obstructive.
The people of Liberton and Gilmerton, and residents all across Edinburgh, deserve better.
I have launched a petition on the need to build better places, which can be signed at my website.
I’m also sending a direct message to Humza Yousaf. You may have chosen to ignore my letter and asked an official to respond, but will you have the decency to respond to the readers of this newspaper and the citizens of Edinburgh and tell them what you are going to do to make up for the government’s inaction and tackle this GP crisis?
Government comes with responsibility. Over to you.
Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South