The critical role the north-east’s minor injury units play in patient care has been laid bare by new figures which show patients made more than 275,000 visits over the past six years.
Many are under financial pressures and have struggled with staffing, leading to downgrading of some services.
That has played its part in a slow decline in minor injury unit (MIU) use since 2013 and will see the future of Ugie Hospital discussed this week.
Banff and Buchan MP David Duguid, however, argues they are vital to the health care system and has pleaded for them to receive more funding.
He claims it is crucial the SNP spend some of the £2 billion UK Government windfall to shield NHS Grampian from a £70 million deficit.
The MP also raised concerns that MIUs would suffer in anticipated cuts, highlighting the doubts over Ugie, downgrading of Dr Gray’s and the ongoing GP crisis.
The figures, obtained under Freedom of Information powers, show 273,056 people visited MIUs in Aberdeenshire in the last six years, with 39,414 between April 2017 and February this year alone.
Mr Duguid said: “This data shows conclusively that north-east minor injuries units are almost as busy now as they were in 2012 but this year NHS Grampian will receive the lowest funding per head of population anywhere in Scotland.
“They will have to make cuts worth £70 million in the next four years.
“It is my concern that local MIUs, particularly those serving rural areas in Aberdeenshire, will be the easiest targets for cost savings, but because of changes elsewhere in the NHS Grampian estate, I believe they are more vital now than ever.
“The SNP Scottish Government will be given the means to protect these units.
“An extra £2 billion is coming to Scotland from the UK Government, which must be ring-fenced for the healthcare it’s intended for.
“If Nicola Sturgeon can concentrate on doing what’s best for the north-east, she will agree to doing so.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the claims “hypocrisy on stilts”.
She said: “The increase in funding the NHS Grampian has this year is the biggest percentage increase of any health board and that’s right in my view.
“Frankly the calls from the Scottish Tories are hypocrisy on stilts.
“This is the party that is the steward of austerity right now, imposing austerity cuts right left and centre, and the Scottish Tories don’t stand up to the UK government on that but repeatedly call for more money.
“The Scottish Tories would have taken hundreds of millions of pounds out of the budget by proposing tax cuts for the riches so I don’t think they’re in a particularly strong position to lecture the Scottish Government when it comes to funding.
“We’ve consistently increased health budgets and we will continue to do that in Grampian and elsewhere across the country too.”
Currently all minor injury units in Aberdeenshire are under review.
Angie Wood, location manager for the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “Over the past few months we’ve conducted a comprehensive assessment of minor injury units across Aberdeenshire.
“The outcome of this work will be presented to the Integration Joint Board for consideration as part of our aims to ensure that all communities are well-provisioned with care for minor injuries.”