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NHS Highland admits it is struggling to recruit staff for Invergordon and Alness GP practice as calls are made for inquiry

By Scott Maclennan

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The practice is based at the Robertson Health Centre in Alness.
The practice is based at the Robertson Health Centre in Alness.

A full inquiry into the management of a troubled Ross-shire GP practice is needed amid mounting concerns about treatment of patients.

That is the call from a council election candidate and a local Invergordon personality who earlier this week lambasted the treatment his ill father received.

NHS Highland took over the running of the Alness and Invergordon Medical Group in February, following the resignation of three GP partners last year.

Concerns resurfaced this week when Invergordon strongman Luke Stoltman took to social media to blast the service provided to his father who, he said, has been waiting five years for treatment for sciatica.

Maxine Morley-Smith, currently standing for re-election to the Cromarty Firth ward, said it was time for a closer look at how the practice had deteriorated.

“We have been dealing with the practice issues for quite some time, in fact it is an issue we have been trying to tackle for many years,” she said.

Maxine Morley-Smith.
Maxine Morley-Smith.

“I met the local MSP and health minister, Maree Todd, about this and I emailed her about what is happening.

“The problem was the NHS had to remove the contract and restaff the practice while at the same time I was liaising with a patient at the practice whose husband was on the receiving end of very poor treatment.

“Whatever has happened I, and I think the community as well, want to see the most thorough possible investigation to discover how the practice ended up in the state that it is now.”

Mr Stoltman wants a public apology as well as an inquiry after, he said, so many patients had been let down.

“Something has to be done,” he said.

“At the bare minimum, to get things going, I would expect a public apology, to restore faith.

Luke Stoltman.
Luke Stoltman.

“This should have been dealt with many years ago. If we get this apology then that starts something fresh as a reset, a new cycle, they acknowledge things have gone wrong, they haven’t done their duty of care.”

Others on social media have called for a full public inquiry.

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP Maree Todd, who is also Scottish Government minister for public health, said: “As the local MSP I am committed to working constructively with NHS Highland to find a solution to the problems facing the Alness and Invergordon Medical Practice.

MSP Maree Todd.
MSP Maree Todd.

“I have requested a meeting with the chief executive to discuss this further.”

Ms Smith earlier shared a statement online which she received from NHS Highland chief executive Pam Dudek, in which the health board boss said it was “likely that this practice has been in decline for a long time”.

She added: “We are wrapping around additional resources with the aim of getting to the right place, but the task is large and it will take time.

“That said, we absolutely have an obligation and are committed to make the service better for the 14,000 residents in Alness and Invergordon.

“Our head of primary care had recent communication with the Alness Community Council and has agreed to supply regular updates and attend any local meetings; the same will be offered to Invergordon Community Council.

“We have undertaken a detailed examination of the current state and our action plan has been designed around that.

“On March 1 we commenced a procurement process to seek a new long-term provider for the practice.

“After the initial expression of interest phase we have received ​several responses ​from interested parties and they will ​now be invited to submit a full business case.

The practice also has a base at the community hospital in Invergordon.
The practice also has a base at the community hospital in Invergordon.

“However, this process is likely to run until August/September, ​and we will maintain our commitment to a programme of support to rectify the issues that have been deficient within the practice for many years and ensure that there is a safe service in place.”

Lack of GP availability, she said, is proving to be the main barrier to improvement, something, she said, that was common across the country.

Related article: NHS Highland to take over running of Alness and Invergordon Medical Practice

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