MSP Lamont calls for U-turn over outpatient clinic cuts

Hawick MSP John Lamont
Hawick MSP John Lamont

HAWICK MSP John Lamont has slammed plans to radically cut NHS outpatient clinics and replace them with “virtual” consultations.

And the Tory politician has urged the Scottish Government to rethink proposals to encourage patients to look after themselves at home, which he says will compromise the care of townsfolk.

He told the Hawick News: “Each year thousands of Borders residents are given outpatient appointments at Borders General Hospital, and I am sure that many of them will be worried to hear this news. Self-care and virtual clinics might be appropriate for some cases, but it will never be as good as seeing a health professional face-to-face.”

Around 10 per cent of routine referrals are being cut to save £17million annually on wasted appointments, and to speed up waiting times, amid a raft of new measures being introduced that will significantly change patients’ experience. The scheme was revealed by senior NHS managers at a recent meeting of board chief executives.

And local health boss Calum Campbell says that the changes – which along with “virtual clinics” where consultants review patients’ results via telephone, will also see many patients with minor or long-term conditions told to “self-care” at home - will build on similar measures which already benefit their service.

“Technology has an important part to play in the modern healthcare system”, said the NHS Borders Chief Executive. “NHS Borders already provides some outpatient follow-up clinics by phone and as part of our new clinical strategy we will continue to explore ways in which technology can be used to best meet the healthcare needs of our population”.

But Mr Lamont added: “While I understand the NHS needs to save money, this must never come at the expense of the standard of care received by the patients. The use of technology does have a part to play in patient treatment, but the SNP need to also start recruiting more nurses to ensure that those who need care can receive it as soon as possible.”