The health secretary has refused to halt a controversial management shake-up at a Granite City GP’s surgery.
At Holyrood this afternoon, Humza Yousaf was asked to press pause on permanent change at Old Aberdeen Medical Practice, which was rocked by a mass walkout last winter.
North-east Labour MSP Mercedes Villalba wants a full, independent review of the changes introduced – which led to all nine GPs quitting the Sunnybank Road centre.
Departing medics revealed frustrations at the staff consultation, as well as concerns for patient care, as it was revealed a private firm would take over.
Old Aberdeen was one of only six practices run by NHS Grampian and Aberdeen City Health And Social Care Partnership (ACHSCP), while all others are run by companies contracted by the authorities.
It was a move met with fierce opposition in Old Aberdeen, with loyal patients and doctors arguing its unique, mainly student, patient list should mean an exception could be made.
Health secretary yet to meet with Old Aberdeen campaigners
The health secretary previously told MSPs he would “consider” meeting campaigners concerned about Old Aberdeen.
But last month, he claimed he was “unavailable” as he “focussed on the response to Omicron and accelerating the booster campaign”.
Mr Yousaf said he would be “happy to touch base” after the immediate pressures were over – but a final decision on the future running of Old Aberdeen is expected by the end of this month.
In parliament, Ms Villalba urged him to intervene directly.
“I recognise that you have raised this issue on a number of occasions and I know other members have got concerns – understandably so,” he told the north-east MSP in response.
“But I would not be asking ACHSCP to pause the tendering process because that would be doing exactly what I don’t want to, which is intervening in local decision making.
“I know the recent tendering has placed the needs of patients and the local community front and centre, for a more sustainable model of GP practice going forward.”
North-east MSP makes case for full, independent review of Old Aberdeen management shake-up
Mr Yousaf did agree to raise some issues from the probe with Grampian health chiefs.
He will flag complaints about staff consultation at Old Aberdeen, that necessary assessments were not carried out and about how ACHSCP deals with complaints.
A government spokeswoman later said it was for the HSCP to determine how GP services should be run in Aberdeen.
Ms Villalba claims only a full independent review of the process will restore confidence in health services in the city.
She added: “The health secretary appears unwilling to intervene to protect popular, effective and publicly-run medical practices like Old Aberdeen.
“There are still questions which remained unanswered about how the tendering process was conducted.
“I believe the process must now be halted to enable a full independent review to take place.”
D-Day on Old Aberdeen management looms
In 2020, city health chiefs developed the plans for Old Aberdeen, Camphill, Carden, Marywell, Torry and Whinhill, claiming it would make them more sustainable.
Newburn Healthcare, which already runs Denburn and Mastrick GP practices, was drafted in to provide emergency relief at Old Aberdeen.
In late November, the doctors who quit offered to return to the practice – if the tendering for new management was abandoned.
Health chiefs stood firm, announcing no change of heart.
Elsewhere, the claims of bolstered sustainability have been tested too.
Authorities had been unable to hire enough staff to “sustainably or safely” run it.
A spokeswoman for the ACHSCP said: “Last year the partnership commissioned an independent investigation into the complaints raised by the campaigners, the high level outcomes from the investigation were reported back to the Integration Joint Board (IJB) in March 2021.
“Any actions associated with the investigation have now been closed off by the IJB.”