Podiatry services offered at local health centres at Duns and Coldstream are being removed by NHS Borders and from the end of February patients will have to travel to either Kelso or Eyemouth.
The majority of patients affected by the change are elderly and many are worried about how they will be able to get to appointments over ten miles away.
On the NHS Borders website it currently states: “The Podiatry service is a foot health service which offers advice, support and care based on clinical need.
“Most patients are seen in local health centres.”
When asked to confirm that: podiatry services at Coldstream Health Centre and The Knoll at Duns are to cease from the end of February; patients will have to travel to Kelso or Eyemouth for their foot care; and whether transport would be provided, NHS Borders provided a somewhat bland response.
An NHS Borders spokesperson said: “Since 2010, NHS Borders has plans in place to develop models of care where a range of key services are provided from community hubs. Podiatry is central to this and a hub model has already been introduced in the Teviot area.
“This model improves patient care by ensuring access to a range of skilled podiatry staff and upgrading the facilities on the sites. As part of these changes, we are pleased to say that the Kelso hub will be available from March 2015.”
Berwickshire MSP John Lamont has been contacted by a number of concerned residents and he said: “Several residents have contacted me about the loss of this important service. I have raised my concerns with NHS Borders and await their response.
“I fear the health board isn’t paying sufficient attention to the importance of local services to residents. I hope that this doesn’t continue as they consider the future of community hospitals.
“Services such as these are a lifeline to local people and it isn’t always practical for residents, particularly elderly residents, to be expected to travel to different locations.”
Retired NHS podiatry manager Anne Cummins, from Duns, is also concerned about the plans: “The proposal is that patients from Duns and surrounding area travel to either Eyemouth or Kelso,” she said, adding that there is no direct bus service between Duns and Kelso.
From Duns to Eyemouth would cost patients around £9.50 if they went to Eyemouth using RVS passenger transport service and £11.20 if they attend podiatry appointments at Kelso.
“Podiatry is an essential service,” added Anne. “It is not a service which is there to cut long toenails but is a medical service designed to prevent and cure.
“This is another NHS cost-cutting exercise and a devious way to discharge patients in need, as many people with existing foot problems will be unable to use public transport or afford the fares charged by the RVS and thus unable to access vital foot-care.”