An Aberdeen GP practice has been rocked by at least one more resignation in protest to a planned management overhaul, The Press And Journal understands.
The latest doctor to walk out on Old Aberdeen medical centre follows five others, who have quit in reaction to public health authorities withdrawing from the surgery in favour of finding someone else to run it.
The integration joint board (IJB) met yesterday to approve proposals to find GP-led partnerships to run Camphill, Carden, Marywell, Old Aberdeen, Torry and Whinhill medical centres.
Other practices in Aberdeen will be invited to tender to take on one, some or all of the six, though bosses are reserving the right to keep things as is if the right bidder can’t be found.
The sixth doctor to resign did so soon after the board approved the proposals to put the management of the practices out to tender yesterday.
Sources close to the GP practice in Sunnybank Road claim of the nine doctors there before these plans emerged, only one could soon remain.
Last week, those same sources described the centre as being “on the brink of collapse” – a worrying prospect for its near 11,000 patients.
Patients spokes of “horror” at the plans, which threaten the continuity of care at a practice where many have seen the same doctor for years.
Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership (ACHSCP) would not comment on the latest reports of resignations, but IJB chairwoman Sarah Duncan admitted it would be a “really worrying situation” for patients.
But she told The P&J: “Officers have had business continuity plans in place for this eventuality.
“They were aware of great unhappiness in that one practice at the proposals so they did the prudent thing by starting to put in place arrangements to ensure GP services could still be provided from that practice if partners decided to leave.
“But I am very sorry to hear doctors feel they no longer want to be part of that practice.”
More than 100 staff and thousands of people around the city will be affected by the move, which ACHSCP claim is being brought in to improve sustainability of GP services.
It will bring the six practices, directly managed by the NHS, in line with the 23 others in Aberdeen, which are run by GPs contracted by the health authorities to do so.
Torry and Carden medical practices are only under the control of ACHSCP due to problems finding replacement staff, forcing the authorities to step in to ensure people had access to a doctor.
Unison’s Grampian Health Board is representing staff at a majority of the six affected practices and claims a “very rushed” staff consultation on the plans has been ignored.
Services consultation officer, Martin McKay, said: “This isn’t about the GPs, this is about the rest of the staff.
“They will lose their NHS employment status, NHS pension and final salary upon retirement – some have retired because of these changes already.
“This after decades of services to the NHS, these staff are just collateral.
“They rolled out a voting process to staff to give them unrealistic expectations they had an actual say in this – but their voice was completely ignored.
“When practices and services are combined, some staff will lose their jobs.
“Any words from ACHSCP that they have taken the concerns and risks for staff into consideration sound very hollow to Unison.”
IJB chief: GP shake-up causing mass resignation at Aberdeen practice ‘the right decision’
The revamp of GP practices currently run by Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership (ACHSCP) was the “right decision”, according the head of the board scrutinising the plans.
Councillor Sarah Duncan, the chairwoman of the integration joint board (IJB), said despite the protests at Old Aberdeen medical practice, decision makers had to think about “next week, next month or even next year” for sustainable doctor services, able to cope with growing demand.
The city has been hit badly by shortcomings in GP provision in recent years, with retirements and recruitment issues at Torry, Rosemount and Carden medical groups forcing ACHSCP to step in and take charge.
“We have had too many examples over the last few years of GP practices not being unsustainable and this decision, although it directly affects six, will have benefits for all practices in the city,” Ms Duncan said.
“They now have the opportunity, if they feel able, to make themselves larger, which makes them more sustainable with more options to take on service innovation, cover absences and when staff leave.
“This was the right decision for the whole primary care environment in Aberdeen really.”
ACHSCP took over Carden after failing to find another GP partnership to take it over – no suitable tenders were submitted.
The authority has now learned from that experience, with work to prepare city practices to consider taking on these six – Camphill, Carden, Marywell, Old Aberdeen, Torry and Whinhill – leaving the IJB chairwoman “a bit more confident” of finding suitable bidders this time around.
At least six doctors have walked out on Old Aberdeen in protest at the plans.
Approving the tender process yesterday, Ms Duncan claims, is a start towards a more sustainable future – one set up to cope with fewer full-time GPs.
“The move has gone away from seeing a doctor every time you don’t feel well or something is not working,” she said.
“We are moving towards having multi-disciplinary teams – if you have a sore shoulder, you get referred straight away to a physiotherapist who can give you proper treatment and assessment because that’s their speciality, and we have more mental health practitioners in primary care now too.
“The days are gone when it was one family GP treating a whole range of illnesses, primary care is changing and I understand that is difficult but we have a job to set up what it will look like in the future and to bring patients along with the changes, for it to be something they can understand and embrace.”