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Health Secretary Humza Yousaf to ‘consider’ meeting with Old Aberdeen GP campaigners

Health Secretary Humza Yousaf was asked to meet with North East Scottish Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba and campaigners against changes at Old Aberdeen Medical Practice.
Health Secretary Humza Yousaf was asked to meet with North East Scottish Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba and campaigners against changes at Old Aberdeen Medical Practice.

Concerns about the way an Aberdeen doctors surgery is being run could yet be heard by the Scottish Government.

Ministers have so far chosen to stay out of a bitter row over the future of Old Aberdeen Medical Practice, which led to a walk-out by all nine of its GPs.

Formerly run by health authorities, it was put out to tender and has been taken over by Newburn Healthcare LLP – the same group operating the Denburn and Mastrick surgeries.

It came as part of a £5 million shake-up of the NHS-run practices in Aberdeen, with change coming at Camphill, Carden, Marywell, Torry and Whinhill too.

Aberdeen’s Integration Joint Board (IJB), which oversees health and social care in the city, last year voted through the mass restructure in an effort to make the health centres “sustainable”.

It also brought the eight in line with the other 23 GP surgeries across Aberdeen.

Campaigners claimed Old Aberdeen Medical Practice should have been an exception

Old Aberdeen is one of the largest practices in the city, serving 11,000 patients from the surrounding area and Aberdeen University.

Due to the the vast majority of patients being students, along with levels of deprivation in the surrounding area, insiders claimed it would be very difficult for the private firm taking over to make money – and feared this would lead to significant change.

A pressure group formed by Old Aberdeen residents also accused senior health officials of misleading board members – as well as having conflicts of interests.

But an investigation, independently carried out by an Aberdeenshire health chief, did not uphold the most serious complaints.

However, it has been admitted she did not have the power to rule on some allegations levelled at IJB members.

Late last year, and despite desperate pleas from the departing Old Aberdeen doctors, their long-established patients and a fellow SNP government minister, former health secretary Jeane Freeman refused to step in to hear their concerns.

Now her replacement, Humza Yousaf, has told the Scottish Parliament he would consider meeting campaigners.

Health secretary pressed to meet with outraged Old Aberdeen Medical Practice patients

Pressed by Scottish Labour North East list MSP, Mercedes Villalba, he said: “Aberdeen City Partnership (ACHSCP) has extensively engaged with staff on the proposed changes and communicated their plans to patients assuring them they will  continue to receive medical care at the practice.”

But Ms Villalba, elected to Holyrood for the first time in May, urged a more meaningful intervention from the health secretary.

She said the practice had “served the community well” when publicly run, highlighting the “anger” at the way the running of Old Aberdeen was put out to tender and the government’s reluctance to intervene.

More than 1,000 patients signed a petition calling for a U-turn at the Sunnybank Road clinic.

Mr Yousaf added: ” “I will absolutely consider meeting Mercedes Villalba and campaigners about what I know is an important local issue.”

“I would say that it is often from the Labour benches that we are told that government interferes and intervenes too much when it comes to local decision-making.

“Now you are asking now for central government to intervene and interfere in that decision-making against the best judgment of the local integration authority.”

A spokesman for the campaigners welcomed the opportunity to meet with the health secretary.

“He will only learn the truth by listening to patients and former staff whose views have been disregarded,” he added.

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