Concern as Kirkcaldy GP practice forced to close

Kirkcaldy Health Centre. Pic by George McLuskie
Kirkcaldy Health Centre. Pic by George McLuskie

A Kirkcaldy GP practice has been forced to close because the vacancy cannot be filled to keep it going.

The practice of Dr McGlone at Kirkcaldy Medical Centre closed from Monday after NHS Fife, which had been keeping it running with the use of locum GPs, was unable to continue to secure adequate cover.

Claire Baker

Claire Baker

And the move has met with concern from Claire Baker, Fife MSP. who said it was something being experienced across the country as more GPs retire or choose to leave.

The resignation of the permanent GP in November last year resulted in NHS Fife stepping in to provide locum GPs over. However, despite several attempts to recruit a new GP, none proved successful.

Fife Health and Social Care Practice which ran the service, made the decision to disperse the 1637 patient list after it was unable to secure locum cover for three days from the start of this week.

Amongst the reasons given for the decision were the difficulty in securing locums across Fife, the increase in locum costs compared to a normal GP salary and risk fears with management of disease, screening programmes and prescribing guidelines.

The closure is the latest in a number of closures to hit GPs across the region, including the closure of GP lists to new patients in Kirkcaldy.

Claire Baker said: “As the GP crisis in Fife continues the first concern had to be with ensuring all patients found a new doctor and that all urgent and confirmed appointments are kept.

“However this still highlights wider questions that have to be asked as to why Fife is continually facing issues with regards to GP services.

“We have had lists closed to new patients, GP surgeries taken under NHS control, and now closures.

“NHS Fife and the Health and Social Care Practice have a duty to protect and look after patients and we know they do a good job under trying circumstances.

“We have known for some time that we face real challenges in finding GP’s to come and work in Fife. We also know the locums are more expensive and their continued use results in even more pressures being put on an already squeezed budget.

“The challenges we are facing in Fife are being replicated across the country.

“We need to see action to end the GP crisis in Fife now and I will be writing to the Health Secretary to call for this.”

Last March the Scottish Government announced an extra £20 million funding to ease pressures on GPs, with health secretary Shona Robison saying: “The Scottish Government has a clear vision for the future of primary care and GP services.”

And NHS bosses in Fife even issued an appeal to retired GPs to consider returning to work to help ease the strain. However it has seen little change in the situation.

Dr. Seonaid McCallum, associate medical director, of the Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “In common with the rest of the UK, Fife faces GP recruitment challenges. We are committed to working with practices and the Local Medical Committee to support them when they cannot recruit replacement GPs.

“We are exploring a range of support and also developing new models of care to offer alternative choices for patients.

“The priority has been to ensure that every patient registered at this practice has a continuity of GP service and to arrange for the safe transfer of medical records. We are grateful for the co-operation of all the other GP practices in Kirkcaldy.”