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Struggling practice moves 1,000 patients to another town in attempt to secure future

A GP practice that is struggling to meet patient demand is moving more than 1,000 patients off its list.

Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership, which took over the running of Lockerbie Medical Practice in October, has written to 800 of the 5,500 patients to inform them they have been moved to a practice in Lochmaben, town four miles away.

A further 250 patients who live outside the practice area are set to receive letters asking them to move to surgeries nearer to where they live.

The partnership said the practice had been relying heavily on locums and it had been difficult to cope with increasing demand and provide continuity of care.

It is hoped that the efforts to reduce the practice list size will help support the future sustainability of the Lockerbie practice.

Dr Grecy Bell, GP and deputy medical director for Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership, said: ‘Even before we took on a more directly supportive role, we had been aware that Lockerbie Medical Practice had been dealing with very high demand for some time.

‘In recent months, that demand has been felt even more acutely – unfortunately the practice team are sometimes being faced with the frustrations of patients who are unable to access the service they want.

‘Following discussions with Lochmaben Medical Group it has been agreed that some patients will now have GP services provided from Lochmaben.’

In a statement about the plans, Dr Bell added: ‘We have a very serious responsibility for the welfare of patients, doing everything we can to ensure that they are able to access the help they need when they need it, from the right person and in an accessible way.

‘We also need to ensure that the practice team are able to safely manage the amount of patient activity which comes to the practice.’

A meeting is being held for patients today outlining the changes, but concerns have already been raised in the Scottish Parliament about the decision.

At the end of last month, Oliver Mundell, MSP for Dumfriesshire, told Holyrood it was ‘totally unacceptable for 1,000 patients to be transferred to a different GP practice in another town due to GP shortages’.

In response First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she would ask the health minister to look into the specific case but that the Scottish Government were taking a range of actions, from increasing places at medical schools and boosting GP training places, to offering incentives and would continue to do so to address GP shortages.