An overhaul of GP services in Aberdeen which caused a mass walk-out at one of the city’s largest surgeries has taken a step forward, as authorities launch a £5.3 million search for private firms to run it and five others.
Health and social care bosses are looking to withdraw from the management of Camphill, Carden, Marywell, Old Aberdeen, Torry and Whinhill medical centres.
At the end of last year, all nine GPs at Old Aberdeen resigned over the potential changes, leaving the partnership to scramble for interim cover.
Denburn Medical Practice has taken charge of the Sunnybank Road facility, which has around 11,000 patients on its books.
Campaigners say Old Aberdeen is unique within the city, until recently offering long-running continuity of care from the same doctors.
There are fears this process will badly impact that, amid concern it will struggle to make money given its 8,000 student patients.
Aberdeen Central MSP, Kevin Stewart, said: “I have been contacted by hundreds of people about this tender, and in particular about Old Aberdeen Medical Practice.
“In the main, the emails I have received were from people who wanted assurances that they would continue to receive the high standard of healthcare that they were used to.”
The Integration Joint Board (IJB), which oversees ACHSCP’s work, voted through the management change at the six practices in December.
Together the medical centres now up for grabs are responsible for the treatment of around 36,000 people.
Torry and Carden practices are only local authority run currently due to historic recruitment issues, with ACHSCP stepping in to right the ship and guarantee health provision for residents.
Others on the list, such as Camphill and the homeless practice at Marywell, have previously been thought too small to make private management economically viable.
NHS Grampian has invited interested groups to make the case for taking on their running – as individual practices, smaller groups or as one job lot.
In December, the option of leaving the running of practices as it is was also left on the table, should no suitable bids come forward.
Concerns were also raised about the risk of big healthcare operators taking ACHSCP to court if they showed an interest and were turned down.
Meanwhile unions have described the plans as “fantasy land”.
An ACHSCP spokesman said: “The procurement process has now gone live, in line with the decision of the Integration Joint Board in December, and invites suitably qualified persons to submit business cases to provide general medical services for the six GP practices which are currently managed by Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership.
“Interested parties now have 45 days to make their submissions, in advance of the evaluation and interview processes going ahead in April and May.
“The partnership would like to encourage GP practices to consider whether they would wish to make a submission and would be happy to discuss this further with any which are interested in taking this forward.”