Stuart McMillan, SNP MSP for Greenock and Inverclyde, submitted a Freedom of Information (FOI) request on Friday 28 February following NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s (NHSGGC) decision to temporarily close the GP Out of Hours service at Inverclyde Royal Hospital (IRH).
The local MSP has asked for information relating to the number of patients from Inverclyde travelling to hospitals and health centres across the health board area, broken down by age, and how many walk-in patients have attended GP Out of Hours services at the IRH and Greenock Health Centre since 2016.
Stuart has also asked for data regarding the number of instances since 2016 when Inverclyde-based GPs have been sent outside of the local area to cover GP Out of Hours services in other parts of the health board area. He has subsequently asked on how many occasions GPs from out with the Inverclyde area have been sent to cover the local GP Out of Hours services.
Commenting, Stuart said:
“My constituents are right to be worried about NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s decision to temporarily close Inverclyde’s GP Out of Hours service. I’m also alarmed at this decision and have consequently written to the Chief Executive of NHSGGC calling for it to be reconsidered. I have expressed my concerns to the Health Secretary too, and asked her to enter into discussions with the health board to try to reverse this closure.
“While I recognise this is intended to only be a temporary measure, I appreciate that people will be worried that once it’s closed it could make it more difficult to reinstate this service in the future. The health board must do better to assure my constituents that they are doing all they can to bring in GPs willing to cover the local Out of Hours service.
“My FOI request intends to gather information relating to how many people locally use the GP Out of Hours service, and if the services in Inverclyde are closed, which services located elsewhere in the health board area they present at. I am keen to know the age ranges of patients who typically use this service also.
“On Friday 6 March, I will be meeting with NHSGGC’s Chief Executive to discuss this matter in more detail, and will call for this decision to be reconsidered.
“There was no public consultation on this change in service, which I find appalling. People will understandably feel powerless in these situations, and for my constituents who regularly have to rely on these services, this will be a stressful time.
“Even if they have access to a car to drive them to Paisley or further afield, there are fuel costs involved. For patients reliant on public transport, this is an even bigger worry, because although the health board reimburses people’s taxi costs, this assumes you have the money up front to afford the return trip.
“Inverclyde is home to a growing elderly population who will find it more difficult than any other age group to travel to Paisley and beyond in the evenings, overnight or at weekends to see a GP. I am concerned that this temporary closure will therefore put more pressure on our A+E department at the IRH.
“I’m hoping that my FOI will shed light on why this decision has been taken. This is a matter of fairness and I truly believe that my constituents are being short changed by NHSGGC for no other reason than being on the periphery of the health board area.”