A leading union has branded a proposed overhaul of Aberdeen GP practices “fantasy land” and claimed the coronavirus pandemic proves it will not work.
Unison regional organiser Simon Watson hit out at the plans, which have already prompted five doctors to quit a city clinic in recent days.
Health bosses will vote on the shake-up of six GP practices at a meeting next week, with officials recommending the IJB backs plans to source independent GP-led partnerships to run Old Aberdeen, Camphill, Carden, Marywell, Torry and Whinhill.
Thousands of patients and more than 100 staff would be impacted by the change at the premises, currently run by the Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership (ACHSCP).
Mr Watson, whose union represents staff at a majority of the affected clinics, said: “One of the conclusions by officials is a contract put out would protect the NHS from increasing costs.
“But what we have seen with Covid-19 is the buck stops with the public sector – we have seen private care homes with problems call in NHS workers.
“Health staff have been on the front line defending our lives during the pandemic and should not be cast adrift.”
Old Aberdeen – unique in the city as it serves a local community and thousands of Aberdeen University students – has been the most resistant to the change; so much so that five GPs have now resigned.
Earlier this week, a source close to the doctors said they feared the change would lead to a “complete collapse” of the Sunnybank Road surgery, with Mr Watson warning more could follow them out the door.
Most Scottish GP practices are run by doctors, as is being proposed, with only 4% nationally being run by health authorities.
But NHS staff working at the practices were consulted on the options, with the proposed way forward scoring lowest in their rankings.
Mr Watson claims the consultation was “very rushed” and said “not a blind bit of notice” had been paid to it.
But an ACHSCP spokesman said the remodelling was about “enhancing local GP services” and improving sustainability of services amid staff shortages and increasing populations.
“The paper recommends a procurement process to identify GP partners who would operate these practices as an independent business, working with staff to deliver improvements,” he said.
“Most practices in Aberdeen and across Scotland are managed by GP partners.
“This model is the one favoured nationally in the new GMS contract and locally by the local medical committee and has been the standard model since the birth of the NHS more than 70 years ago.
“It has nothing at all to do with privatisation.
“The decision will be made with the wellbeing of patients and the practice teams very much in mind.”