Service concerns at Woodstock Medical Centre in Lanark

Patients are still struggling to make appointments at Woodstock Medical Centre – almost 11 months after NHS Lanarkshire admitted there were challenges to overcome.

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There appears to have been little action to resolve issues at the Lanark GP surgery since they were first raised last June. MSP Mairi McAllan, and her constituents, are now running out of patience.

In June last year, we reported on an online survey which had been set up by a concerned mum; that collective voice survey led to a meeting with Lanarkshire Medical Group (LMG) which runs the practice.

Managers and health chiefs also met with Clydesdale MSP Mairi McAllan in a bid to resolve lengthy waits to get through on the telephone and a lack of appointments.

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LMG 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.

Patients have been complaining ever since, both to Mairi and the Gazette. Now the MSP is running out of patience with the lack of action.

She said: “I continue to assist constituents who are very frustrated with services at Woodstock Medical Centre. I share their frustration.

“After being elected last year, raising problems at Woodstock with NHS Lanarkshire was one of my first acts.

“In June 2021, I was assured that progress would soon be made on straightforward matters like an improved phone and appointment booking system.

“I met again with NHS Lanarkshire in late December 2021, asking to be updated. Owing to an apparent lack of progress, I wrote to NHS Lanarkshire on February 11 to make clear my deep concerns about the failings in service that were being reported to me by constituents.”

Mairi did not receive a response to her letter; having chased the matter up she was offered a meeting in March.

She continued: “I sought assurances that progress would be made as a matter of urgency; in particular, simple changes like patients being able to have calls answered and book appointments.

“The Scottish Government has made millions available to improve call handling; I want to see NHS Lanarkshire’s share directed to Woodstock.

“I now await an update on this and a formal response to my letter of February. In the meantime, my office and I continue to assist very many constituents through the formal complaints process.

“I absolutely appreciate that our NHS has suffered unprecedented strain in recent years. We know that the hard work of so many in our NHS has helped get us through the horrors of a pandemic and that our health service will not recover overnight. Many, including at Woodstock, are working very hard under extraordinary pressure.

“Despite this, as local MSP, equitable access to health care for the people of Lanark and Clydesdale is my foremost priority. I maintain that small changes could go a long way to improving matters in the short term.”

Craig Cunningham, head of performance at South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership, said there were no easy fixes.

He said: “A member of staff met with Ms McAllan and spent some time explaining the huge pressures being experienced by all GP practices and of the ongoing difficulties they face in light of Covid.

“This was exacerbated over recent months when approximately one in eight people in the population were suffering from Omicron when many practices were also hit by significant staff absence.

“Unfortunately, there are no easy fixes and the situation in Lanark is very similar to that being experienced across the country.

“Given Covid is still active in the community, GPs also have to ensure a safe environment for all their patients and this means that face to face appointments will only be available when deemed clinically appropriate.

“Unfortunately, this is resulting in a big increase in the number of contacts with the GP practice and is having to be managed by the staff in as effective a way as possible.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​”