Effects of surgery shutdown are questioned at council level

During a recent meeting councillors expressed their concerns over plans to close a doctors’ surgery in Twechar.

Prior to closing as a measure to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the satellite surgery at Twechar Healthy Living and Enterprise Centre offered 12 GP appointments over the course of a half-day session per week. But in June the practice of Doctors Davda, Ness, Fraser and McGroarty of Woodhead Medical Centre requested permission to make the closure permanent.

As the practice is an independent business holding a GP contract, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde conducted a public consultation but is unable to judge the case presented by the practice.

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The matter was discussed at a meeting of East Dunbartonshire Council, as although not a formal consultee EDC is entitled to submit a response while local councillors serving Twechar were formally involved in the consultation process.

One of those councillors, John Jamieson, said: “I was quite depressed to see the proposal given the hard work that residents did over the years to get a surgery, even for one session a week. The reasons for closing this surgery were not brought to the attention of people putting in objections.”

Councillor Jamieson referred to the report being considered by councillors which spelled out a number of issues with the practice, including the lack of proper cleaning and clinical waste disposal, issues with the centre such as possible cross-contamination, lack of security or reception, no panic button, IT problems, no mobile coverage and growing demand on the main practice in Kirkintilloch making it harder to spare a GP for Twechar.

“There is an awful lot more information here than we were given at the time,” continued Councillor Jamieson. “I don’t think it was very fair, the way that was conducted.

“The people in Twechar are no longer able to go to Kilsyth as new patients so that is one avenue that’s been closed to them. There are travel difficulties, they’ve only got a small bus that takes 26 passengers and of course within the Covid situation that is even further restricted.”

Councillor Jamieson also pointed out that Twechar is a deprived area but one with a growing population which he felt should justify the presence of a GP surgery, and concluded by saying he felt many of the issues listed in the request for closure could be addressed by the health board.

Councillor Stewart MacDonald, who also represents the ward,  thanked council officers on behalf of the people of Twechar for preparing the report being considered at the meeting as this was “over and above” the council’s obligations.

“This threat has come as an absolute shock to Twechar,” he added, “not least because the GP surgery has been embedded in the fabric of the Healthy Living Centre to the extent there is also a pharmacy there. The room used by the GP was designed for exactly that purpose.

“The reasons given for closure seem almost trivial given this surgery has been there for ten years and I would question why at least three quarters of these reasons have not been addressed over that period.”

Councillor MacDonald acknowledged the report stating there was a half-mile walk in Kirkintilloch from the nearest bus stop to the surgery, adding that this also involved going up a very steep hill, and agreed with Councillor Jamieson that there was little hope of Twechar residents finding space at other surgeries.

“I have no faith whatsoever that they will be able to get access to these GP surgeries,” he said.