Rutherglen and Cambuslang residents can continue to use the New Victoria Hospital for its NHS out of hours service until the completion of a national review.
The Lanarkshire NHS Board last week confirmed at its meeting that recommendations from the national outof-hours review would be implemented in Lanarkshire and that the local out-ofhours review would not conclude until after the national review reports.
Furious local residents had campaigned for them to be allowed to continue to use the Victoria’s service, rather than travel to Airdrie and Hamilton, as was being proposed in the local review.
The NHS said that due to patient safety concerns regarding the current service, which are giving cause for concern, the board agreed to augment its current business continuity arrangements to improve the service.
Residents elsewhere in Lanarkshire will us an interim service model based at Airdrie Health Centre and the Douglas Street Clinic in Hamilton.
Chief executive Calum Campbell said: “Patient safety is the most important consideration in moving this matter forward. We are committed to implementing the national recommendations on out- of- hours services, but need to introduce enhanced interim measures to protect the safety of our patients.
“Our own review has identified that we need to take urgent interim steps to improve access for patients assessed as requiring to be seen within one hour, as at present only 37 per cent of these patients are being seen within target.
“The implementation of the interim measures will significantly improve the performance and ensure a safe service is provided for patients. Continuous performance monitoring will take place.
“The Lanarkshire out- of- hours service has been operating under business continuity arrangements for a considerable time.
“Even with these arrangements - which effectively mean that we have had no choice but to reduce the number of centres open depending on the number of doctors willing to work the out-of-hours shifts - providing a safe and effective service for patients has proved challenging.
“Our business cont i n u i t y arrangements need to be enhanced to improve patient safety pending the outcome of the national review.
“The interim service will be kept under constant review and we will undertake a full review, with public involvement, within six months.
“When the national recommendations are known we will seek to implement these as soon as possible.”
The news was welcomed by Rutherglen’s Labour MSP James Kelly, who campaigned to ensure locals would continue to use the service as it currently stands.
He said: “This is a victory for the thousands of people within Rutherglen and Cambuslang who supported the campaign to retain NHS out of hour services at the Victoria. People responded in huge numbers because they were clear that the health board’s intention at the initial consultation meeting in the Town Hall was to move this service to Hamilton. The weight of public opinion has forced the health board to change their mind.
“However, we must not be complacent and I will be watching developments on the national out of hours consultation to make sure that any changes are not introduced through the back door. The health board have been left in no doubt that any future attempt to move local services to Hamilton will be strongly resisted.”
New local SNP MP Margaret Ferrier and her colleague Glasgow MSP Bob Doris MSP welcomed the news.
Margaret has now written to the health board to seek assurances that the Rutherglen and Cambuslang areas will not be included in this interim change.
The chief executive of NHS Lanarkshire has confirmed in writing to Margaret that their previous commitment regarding Rutherglen and Cambuslang still stands and as such, people in those areas can continue to access out-of-hours services at the New Victoria Hospital.
She said: “I am delighted that the fears of local residents have been allayed. Whilst Bob Doris had already received assurances that local service would remain unaffected, this confirmation from NHS Lanarkshire that out-of-hours service will not be affected by the interim change is very welcome.
“Our objective moving forward is to continue to protect local health provision and to make the case for service improvements to better serve the area.”
During the recent general election campaign, Margaret had been advocating an enhanced service which would see provision extend to Rutherglen Health Centre.
She added: “Rutherglen Health Centre has just witnessed the completion of a half-million pound upgrade. This facility is a credit to the health board, providing varied and frequent local services. I would welcome serious consideration of my proposal to further extend the remit of the centre to provide an enhanced out- of- hours GP service to the local community.”
Bob Doris added: “This announcement confirms the reassurances that I received from NHS Lanarkshire after my representations to them, following which they ditched any suggestion of out of hours cover being withdrawn from the Victoria Infirmary.
“The challenge now is to campaign for additional out of hours services at Rutherglen Health Centre, whilst ensuring the Heath Board are in no doubt we wish to retain access to the Victoria in the long term.
“I will now throw my weight behind our new MP Margaret Ferrier’s campaign to look at enhanced out of hours services at Rutherglen Health Centre.”
However, Liberal Democrat councillor for Rutherglen South Robert Brown was more cautious on hearing the announcement.
He said: “NHS Lanarkshire have already said that they would not change the arrangements for GP out of hours services for Rutherglen and Cambuslang until after the National Review is concluded. I have always regarded that position as little more than a PR statement following the strength of local protests about their original consultation on moving the service from the Victoria Infirmary to Hamilton or Airdrie.
“However the fact that they have in effect moved to a two centre model for the rest of Lanarkshire in advance of the results of the National Review does not give any cause for confidence.
“Bringing in extended pharmacy services and nurse-led services to support the GP out of hours arrangements is fine and will no doubt help.
“However the bottom line is that this is a further crisis in the Scottish NHS for the SNP Government in Edinburgh. The out of hours is struggling because they cannot get enough GPs. That is something that SNP Ministers should have sorted out long ago.
“It looks like the much- heralded national review will only come up with sticking plaster solutions.
“Local people – indeed patients across Scotland – need a more long- term answer that they can rely on.
“Concentrating GP out of hours services in centres which are remote from the public is not the answer.”
This is a victory for the thousands of people who supported the campaign to retain NHS out of hours services at the Victoria