Plans for a £8.1 million replacement for three aging Aberdeen GP surgeries are on hold and are to be reviewed in the new year.
Work was expected to begin on the high-tech centre at Greenferns in Northfield early this year but was delayed by the pandemic.
NHS Grampian has confirmed work on the replacement for the existing Denburn, Northfield and Mastrick practices have been paused.
“The planning team has been redeployed into other areas of work such as safer working environmental checks and relocation services across the system,” a spokeswoman said.
“No planning applications have been withdrawn, and all will be reviewed in the new year when the time is right.”
Nearly four years ago, Denburn medical practice took over the running of Northfield and Mastrick, a joint practice struggling to recruit GPs, using costly locum doctors and with eight-week waiting lists.
It is understood the Greenferns practice in Howes Road will not be signed off on until health bosses know the lay of the land after a similar overhaul of other GP practices across the city.
Aberdeen Health and Social Care Partnership last month was was given the green light to launch a search for private companies to run six doctors’ surgeries, currently overseen by public authorities.
The Sunnybank Road practice serves around 3,000 local residents in Old Aberdeen, Seaton, Tillydrone and Rosemount; as well as around 8,000 students.
But an anonymous GP – who previously worked at Northfield – has come forward to warn against a similar takeover there.
There are claims the two practices in socially deprived areas of the city have been reduced from having six GPS to only providing nurse appointments – and had been even before the pandemic.
They told The P&J: “It’s my fear Denburn takes over Old Aberdeen.
“Being put out to tender has been very detrimental to the people of Northfield, as far as I can see.
“What’s become of Northfield and Mastrick makes me very concerned.”
Another source – speaking for the departing doctors at Old Aberdeen – added: “Throughout the redesign process we have been anxious patients would lose the quality of care we have been able to give them and we consider the previous tender in Northfield and Mastrick in 2017 to have increased the healthcare divide.
“Our concern is the standard of care will drop, and we don’t want any barriers to care – we don’t think Denburn is accessible as they try to signpost people away.”
Denburn boasts a modern setup making use of advanced triage systems, and consultations by phone or email.
Two bus rides away from Northfield, there has been criticism of the need for some patients to travel to the centre of Aberdeen to see a GP.
But lead GP at the Denburn/Arurora practice – the group which includes Northfield and Mastrick and looks to benefit from the move to the planned Greenferns centre – Dr Amir Iqbal – hit back at any suggestion his patients were receiving a lesser service.
He said: “Within the first few weeks of taking over in May 2017, patient wait-time for contact was largely eliminated with patients being able to access care, from an appropriate clinician, the same day.
“Patients have been very positive about the service change and have remained so.
“Denburn has received positive feedback, particularly in terms of access and fares well when benchmarked against other local practices.
“Prior to the Covid pandemic, Northfield ran face-to-face clinics running from Monday to Friday.
“In direct response to the Covid pandemic and, in line with Scottish Government advice, all incoming patient contacts are now assessed over the phone.
“Patients are offered a video appointment, face-to-face review or a home visit as appropriate.
Decision on short-term fix for trouble Aberdeen GP practice pushed back
No decision is to be taken on the offer of short-term help to maintain patient services at an Aberdeen GP practice will be taken until the new year.
Aberdeen City Health and Social Care Partnership (ACHSCP) closed notes of interest from other city practices to guide Old Aberdeen through the coming tumultuous months.
All nine of the centre’s GPs have quit in a row over its future management.
A provisional award of the service level agreement (SLA) – a six-month contract to ensure doctor services continue at the Sunnybank Road practice – was due to be awarded today.
But it has now emerged a decision won’t be taken until January to give bosses more time to consider offers of help.
All practices within NHS Grampian were invited to apply, to work alongside locums brought in for cover, advanced nursing practitioners, pharmacists, physiotherapists and mental health practitioners also being drafted in by ACHSCP.