MEDICAL cover in a Black Isle town is going from bad to worse, according to a local councillor furious about a block on urgent appointments available at the GP surgery on Monday.
Black Isle ward member Craig Fraser says that patients of the Cromarty Medical Practice will have to travel miles to other health centres if they need to see a doctor at the beginning of next week due to ongoing difficulties to recruit permanent doctors.
The same situation already arose on two days last week and Councillor Fraser fears it is going to happen more often.
However, NHS Highland said this week it was hopeful it would secure a more permanent solution for the practice in the near future.
But it confirmed that on Monday urgent on-the-day appointments for Cromarty patients would be dealt with at Munlochy or Fortrose surgeries, not at the town’s medical practice.
It was announced in June the Cromarty surgery would be covered by locum doctors, as well as GPs from other surgeries, after the partners handed the practice back to NHS Highland because of recruitment difficulties. NHS Highland said that initially patients would receive care from locums based at Cromarty with any gaps picked up by the Munlochy practice.
Emergency appointments would continue to be available, but in some cases patients might have to travel to Munlochy.
Councillor Craig Fraser, who lives in the village, said at the time that the community deserved a more stable solution.
Now he says his fears have come to pass, with a notice in the surgery window saying no doctor appointments were available in Cromarty on Thursday or Friday of last week, or on Monday of next week, and patients would have to travel to Munlochy, North Kessock or Fortrose.
Councillor Fraser says this is not acceptable for frail, disabled and vulnerable patients, especially those without a car – it meant they would have to book appointments with the bus timetable in their hand.
“You’d have to work out which bus would get you to the appointment and how long you’d have to wait for a bus back home again, and if you had to collect a prescription in between times that would complicate things even more,” the SNP councillor said.
“Will NHS Highland provide taxis if necessary?” The things I was worried about in June have now actually happened.
“The community deserves better than this and communication from NHS Highland has been extremely poor.
“We are now into August and I have seen nothing to allay my fears that this is going to happen more and more often in the future. As far as I can see it’s a shambles. I think we deserve better than this.”
A spokesman for NHS Highland pointed out that GP practices across Scotland were facing recruitment difficulties: “We have identified locum GPs for August and most of September while we continue working towards a more sustainable service for the future,” he said.
“The service is available from 8am to 6pm from Monday to Friday and provided from the surgery in Cromarty. However, on two days last week and on Monday August 14 the urgent on-the-day GP appointments will be provided at Fortrose or Munlochy.
“In the meantime, all other services will be provided via the surgery at Cromarty.
“Obviously, providing cover on a short-term basis with locums and local GPs is an interim solution to ensure general practice care is available locally for the residents of Cromarty,” he said.
“As previously indicated, attempts to recruit a GP to take on the practice are ongoing.
“There have been expressions of interest and the board is hopeful that it will secure a more permanent solution in the near future.”