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Patients ‘running out of medication’ after GPs’ phone lines are cut off

An entire Scottish island’s GP surgeries have had their phone lines cut for the last four days, leaving patients ‘running out of medication’ and unable to make appointments.

All six rural practices on the Scottish island of Arran are unable to make or receive calls after BT ‘accidentally’ cut their service off early on Tuesday morning.

Arran Medical Group, which runs the surgeries, was due to change telecommunications providers on 18 September because of previous disruptions to their BT service.

GP partner Dr David Hogg explained that two of their sites, in Lamlash and Whiting Bay, have no mobile phone reception, further exacerbating the current problem.

He said: “GPs can’t phone out from the surgeries. Yesterday I had a patient who needed to be discussed urgently with colleagues in the mainland. I had to go out, drive for ten minutes to find signal, park, make that phone call and go back to carry on with the consultation, with all the effects of that on the patient.

‘If we were to actually have an emergency in one of these two surgeries, we have no way of phoning out.’

Arran Medical Group has been able to set up a single phone line to serve all practices and has updated some patients of this via Twitter and Facebook.

However, Dr Hogg added that with a largely older population, many of their patients do not access social media.

He said: ‘We’re on day four with elderly patients who don’t want to go to hospital so are sitting on problems or running out of medication.

‘The service we’re getting is not appropriate to the fact that we are a lifeline. The phone infrastructure is not set up in rural areas to support the sort of services that we are increasingly being expected to offer.’

BT has said they hope to reconnect the island later today, though this is not guaranteed.