Frustration over lack of progress to restore community GP surgeries

Residents of two Moray villages say they feel 'abandoned' with vulnerable people hit hardest by closures.

Campaigners battling to save GP surgeries in two Moray villages have hit an impasse in talks with the head of the practice.

Both surgeries have been closed since the coronavirus pandemic, leaving many patients facing journeys of several hours to reach an alternative clinic.

The campaigners say they are angry but defiant after being told earlier this week their efforts to save the two surgeries have been in vain.

Clinics in Hopeman and Burghead have failed to reopen, apparently due to staff shortages, meaning patients must now travel to Lossiemouth for treatment.

There is no direct bus link and some locals face a four-hour round-trip for a ten-minute consultation.

Ness Tunggal of the Save Our Surgeries group said: “The way it was explained to us is that the practice cannot attend to the demands of the number of people that need care because of the change in demographic profiles.

“But, on the other hand, the practice is not making any effort to recruit more GPs at the moment because they simply do not have the money.

“If things are to move ahead we need everybody, all participants, to be sitting in the same room and discussing this, showing good faith and a willingness to look for solutions to move forward.”

Practice manager Alison Franklin was not available for comment. She was said to have left the building shortly after this week’s meeting and could not be contacted.

As the talks ended, former teacher Viv Hendry, who had made the journey from Hopeman for an appointment at the medical centre, shared her frustration.

She said: “It’s really tough if this is the end of the road because the loss of the surgeries in Burghead and Hopeman just isn’t acceptable.

“I gather that at the meeting they likened the health provision to being ‘a business’ – it’s not. It’s not about making money. It’s about serving people in the local community.”

The delegation of campaigners intend to pursue the matter with NHS Grampian and possibly take it to Holyrood.

The health board says there are regular meetings between health and social care staff and the local community about services, and intends to “build on that community engagement in the coming months”.

While the Hopeman surgery building was bought from the community, the Burghead clinic is leased.

That contract expires in December and campaigners understand there is no intention to renew it.

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