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GPs warn of ‘unacceptable clinical risk’ of cutting out-of-hours service

A group of GPs have warned that patient safety will be endangered by plans to cut back their local out-of-hours service.

The service at the Vale of Leven hospital, in the west of Scotland, has hung in the balance for months after staff shortages led to repeated weekend closures.

But it has now emerged, in a new report, that the preferred option of local NHS managers is to keep the site open at weekends only.

It prompted three local GPs to hold a press conference, alongside local politicians and HospitalWatch campaigners, to warn that the ‘unacceptable’ proposals will hit the poorest and most vulnerable patients.

Helensburgh GP Dr Brian McLachlan told reporters: ‘There is a unanimous feeling among GPs in the community that the health board proposals and the current situation where the out-of-hours service has been closed at weekends constitutes an unacceptable clinical risk to patients.

‘One of the problems with moving the service would be that our most vulnerable patients and our poorest patients would then cease to access the service.’

Dr Mark Garthwaite, a GP in Alexandria added the move would not be safe.

He said: ‘We are geographically quite spread out, we are quite deprived and I also think we have a stoical population here that already have a reluctance and a mistrust of using services in Paisley.

‘I think if we further restrict services it will have detrimental consequences.’

Another local GP, Dr Stephen Dunn who works in Dumbarton, said: ‘If we lose local services we will also struggle to recruit local GPs to the area.’

Campaigners have been battling against cuts to services at the Vale of Leven hospital for more than a decade.

The reassessment of out-of-hours services across Glasgow is in response to the Government’s review led by Sir Lewis Ritchie.

In an update for the Glasgow City Integration Joint Board, officials said that ‘rationalising’ the number of primary care sites would help increase sustainability and release financial savings.

It pointed out that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has struggled to find enough GPs to cover the out-of-hours service, partly because other health boards pay GPs higher rates.