Patients turn up radio to drown out GP consultations

Councillor Bill Henderson with local residents and surgery users Dee Hunter and Campbell Gillan. Picture: Greg Macvean
Councillor Bill Henderson with local residents and surgery users Dee Hunter and Campbell Gillan. Picture: Greg Macvean
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IT’s the medical practice that brings a whole new meaning to the idea of hospital radio.

A medical centre has come under fire after patients said they had been forced to turn up the radio to avoid overhearing delicate consultations with GPs.

They have called for a solution to the problems at the tiny Ratho Health Centre, described as being more like a flat than a doctors surgery.

But a proposed solution to the capacity and size issue – the creation of a “satellite surgery” in a community building at Ratho Station – has been widely criticised by residents.

Less than one per cent backed the idea in a survey, and NHS Lothian has been urged to rethink its proposal.

Gordon Macdonald, MSP for the Edinburgh Pentlands constituency, said: “The health centre that exists is about the size of a family flat and is getting too small. It’s not really fit for purpose. There have been complaints from residents as they have to put the radio on in the surgery’s reception so the patients can’t be overheard. It’s not really fit for purpose.

“But what residents are 
saying is that they do not want to travel to see the doctor – they would prefer an enhanced 
service within Ratho itself.”

Of the 170 households that responded to the Ratho and District Community Council survey, just one supported the satellite surgery option at Ratho Station.

An upgrade of the existing premises, in Baird Road, was backed by 15 per cent, while 19 per cent said they supported the development of a facility somewhere else in Ratho.

But almost two-thirds said they wanted to see a surgery built as part of a new housing development – after a care home which they were promised failed to materialise.

Cala Homes is in the process of building 100 properties in an upmarket development in Ratho, and had intended to sell land on the site for another company to build an 84-bed care home.

But the site went unsold and it was announced earlier this year that the firm would instead build 14 new luxury homes there. Mr Macdonald added: “Now the care home’s not happening we are keen to secure some kind of community benefit from the Cala estate being built. The village supported the Cala development on the basis that there was going to be some kind of community benefit.”

Local councillor Bill Henderson added: “The results show no appetite for a satellite health centre and the people of Ratho deserve a better deal. Ratho Station is down a bad, bendy road and it’s not a satisfactory option. It’s about time that the people got something back for the housing development. They feel let down.”

Hopes that another solution may be found have been raised, after it emerged that Cala Homes has offered premises to the NHS for the development of a new surgery within the affordable housing part of the site. But there is no guarantee that NHS Lothian will be able to afford to take up the offer, with its capital budget already stretched this year.

Colin Briggs, general manager of Edinburgh Community Health Partnership at NHS Lothian, said: “We are currently looking at various options which will enable us to expand the capacity of the GP surgery in Ratho and a project group, with membership including the GP and practice staff, has been set up to take this forward.”