NHS Borders has given an assurance to the Scottish Government that there will be full public engagement as they develop a new out-of-hours GP service.
Longformacus resident Mark Rowley has taken up the cause of GP cover during evenings, weekends and bank holidays after being contacted by local residents concerned that all NHS out-of-hours GPs are now based at Borders General Hospital, Melrose. In recent weeks Mr Rowley has met with NHS Borders officials and has been in correspondence with the Scottish Government on the matter.
Responding to Mr Rowley’s requests for information about the future of out-of-hours cover in the Berwickshire area, Liam Kearney of the Health & Social Care Integration Directorate said: “NHS Borders are taking steps to develop a future model that is more resilient and mitigates the risks that the current service has been facing as a result of their staffing problems.
“Central to the new model will be the ability to continue to provide safe, effective and person centred care. NHS Borders have reassured the Scottish Government that this will involve a full engagement exercise with the public and other relevant stakeholders.”
Freedom of Information requests to discover the recruitment effort made by NHS Borders to employ out-of-hours GPs revealed they had advertised eight times since November 2011. GP and sessional GP posts in the Borders have been advertised on NHSScotland’s medical jobs website since August 2013.
In October last year they contracted a recruitment agency to seek permanent GPs and block-book regular GPs for ad-hoc shifts. Another seven agencies were contacted to undertake a recruitment search for qualified GPs for permanent contracts. This resulted in some GPs being appointed for ad-hoc shifts on a semi regular basis, but no GPs for permanent appointment.
NHS Borders has even tried advertising on social media with postings on the NHS Borders Facebook page and directors tweeting about the opportunities for salaried and sessional GPs.
Mr Rowley responded: “Whilst I feel NHS Borders deserve lots of criticism for their poor response, sense of urgency and complete lack of consultation, they are clearly in a hole that neither our GPs - or others - appear willing to help them out of.
“My gut instinct is more mobile nurses, health visitors and paramedics, with a back-stop of additional ambulance cover, would do the trick. Interestingly there is a reference to NHS drivers transporting to BGH - this was discounted, but would probably help some.”