However, the health board said it was also committed to working alongside Lanarkshire Medical Group (LMG) in Lanark to provide an effective service.
A lengthy statement was issued after meetings with Clydesdale MSP Mairi McAllan and worried mum Irene Donnelly, who set up an online survey to act as a collective voice for Lanarkians.
LMG Lanark took over the General Medical Services (GMS) contract in April 2020. Since then, NHS Lanarkshire has been holding regular meetings with the practice amid ongoing issues in accessing services.
While a shortened version of NHS Lanarkshire’s response had to be carried in the paper this week, due to space constraints, there are no such limitations on the website.
Given how many people have been in touch, we feel it’s important to share the full statement with readers.
It read as follows….
NHS Lanarkshire is committed to working alongside Lanarkshire Medical Group (LMG) Lanark to provide a sustainable and effective service to the people of Lanark but recognises there are still challenges to overcome.
LMG Lanark took over the General Medical Services (GMS) contract in April 2020 following a selection panel process after the previous GP partners’ decision to end their contract.
Since then, NHS Lanarkshire has been holding regular productive meetings with the practice and last week, representatives from NHS Lanarkshire and LMG Lanark met with patients from the area Irene Donnelly and Neil Campbell to discuss some of the ongoing issues facing the people of Lanark in accessing services.
Craig Cunningham, head of commissioning and performance at South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “We understand the difficulties and frustration some patients are experiencing in trying to get appointments at the practice.
"Demand for access to GPs across Lanarkshire is exceptionally high and the team at Woodstock Medical Centre are working extremely hard to provide a high level of care to the local community.
“We had a productive meeting with a couple of the local patients and have invited them on to a patient participation group (PPG) that is being set up to ensure the views of the local community are heard as we strive to improve access to services at the practice. Their contribution to this group will be invaluable.
“One of the first tasks of the PPG will be to review existing patient information such that there can be as much information as possible easily accessible to all. This would include issues like the names of all the GPs now working in the practice, how best to try and access services and how to record concerns where there are any difficulties.
“As part of the meeting, we also highlighted some of the excellent progress LMG Lanark have made since taking over the contract last April.”
Since LMG Lanark was awarded the contract, the practice has:
Increased the number of doctors and healthcare professionals on site with up to six GPs and three practice nurses on per day.
Appointed a new advanced nurse practitioner (ANP) who will start in August plus additional cross site cover support from ANPs.
Recruited a GP to review prescriptions with repeat prescriptions now processed within 48 hours.
Seen an uptake in patients utilising digital access.
Increased staff to manage incoming calls.
A duty doctor on for emergencies so all patients assessed as requiring an urgent appointment can get one.
Trained staff in care navigation so patients can see most appropriate member of practice team.
Craig continued: “The practice recognises that there is still a greater demand for ‘same day’ appointments than are always available. It is looking to introduce a new IT software system that will allow patients to book an appointment a few days in advance. Once implemented, this will take some of the pressures off telephone lines at the practice.
“Of course, due to Covid the practice is now required by Government guidance to provide services in different ways to ensure everyone’s safety. However, the GP team at the practice has stabilised and they are providing more patients consultations than was the case prior to them taking over the practice.
“The people of Lanark can play their part by ensuring they access the right help at the right time. There are lots of qualified experts in the community who can safely advise people on many health conditions.
“NHS Inform website provides advice on self-care, NHS 24 can provide urgent health advice out of hours and your local pharmacy is the first port of call for minor ailments.
“This can also help free up appointments for those who need them.”
The pressures facing the GP practice in Lanark are not unique and are mirrored across the country, with additional challenges been brought on by Covid.
Craig added: “GPs have had to revolutionise how patients access their services during the pandemic and have also had reduced access to services to refer patients to, with capacity not currently as great as it was.
“Patients are having longer to wait to access many services as well as there being a reduced ability for GPs to have patients seen than was previously the case.
“A consequence of this is that many patients, having had their initial symptoms diagnosed and referral made to other services, are calling their GP back to request additional support, e.g. asking when they might be seen and/or seeking further assistance due to a change in/exacerbation of their condition.
"In turn, this is meaning a steep increase in the number of calls to be managed at GP level.
“All of this activity is beyond what the GP would normally be expected to deal with and increases pressure on both telephone and appointment systems.
“Finally we would ask for the patience and support of the public. The majority continue to be very supportive of staff.
"Sadly, however, a minority of people across Lanarkshire have been engaging in behaviours and attitudes that are completely unacceptable.
“Any form of violent or aggressive behaviour towards our staff, be it verbal or physical, will not be tolerated. We’d plea to people to keep bearing with us and please be kind to our staff and colleagues who are committed to caring, no matter the circumstances.”