Hospital axes GP service

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HAWICK will no longer have an out-of-hours GP, due to a lack of doctors willing to carry out the work.

NHS Borders has confirmed that Hawick Community Hospital will not now provide the services of a doctor when local surgeries are closed – with Teries needing medical help being dealt with by Borders General Hospital.

The move to centralise all out-of-hours care has been blamed on a nationwide problem recruiting GPs to work in the evenings, weekends and during public holidays. But assurances have been given that the Borders Emergency Care Service (BECS) – which evolved from BORDOC – will still provide townsfolk with a high level of care.

NHS Borders medical director, Dr Sheena McDonald, told the Hawick News: “It has become increasingly difficult to recruit and retain GPs who wish to undertake evening and overnight work. NHS Borders has taken steps at an executive and operational level to deal with the challenges that this poses in relation to the out-of-hours service, and plans are in place to ensure that patients continue to receive appropriate and timely care delivered by suitably qualified clinicians.”

BECS says it will continue to provide necessary visits to patients in Hawick who are housebound or need palliative care, but that cover in the evenings is now coordinated and dealt with at the BGH.

Emergency department consultant at the BGH, Jacques Kerr, stated: “When dealing with enquiries during the out-of-hours period, any referral to our central hub results in an appropriate course of action being recommended, which will be implemented by an appropriate clinician; either a nurse or a doctor. Despite current pressures on the out-of-hours service provided by GPs, we are confident that we shall continue to have a robust and effective service for the management of patients. This will involve close collaboration between the BECS and A&E services.”

And NHS Borders says this does not rule out Hawick patients receiving a home visit from a BGH-based doctor. But MSP John Lamont says it is not enough. “We need to ensure that BECS continues to provide the best possible care for Hawick residents, but the withdrawal of GPs puts this under threat,” he said. “It must be a priority to keep GPs operating out of hours, and something needs to be done to encourage more to step forward.”