West Dunbartonshire’s MP Martin Docherty-Hughes has expressed his disappointment that evening and weekend GP out of hours services at the Vale of Leven Hospital are to be suspended temporarily by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
The local MP has written to the Chief Executive of Greater Glasgow & Clyde Health Board seeking an urgent meeting to discuss concerns on behalf of constituents about the impact of the out of hours GP service only operating from midnight to 8am Monday to Friday.
In a letter shared with his constituents on social media, MP Docherty-Hughes demanded assurances over the long-term sustainability of local out of hours GP services and called on the health board to reinstate these vital services at the Vale hospital as soon as possible.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has attributed the reduction in hours to a lack of available GPs, as health boards across the country battle a shortage of GPs willing to work after hours due to UK government changes to public sector tax and pensions.
Speaking in the Commons, local MP Martin also raised the matter with Leader of the House Jacob Rees-Mogg – echoing concerns cited by the British Medical Association (BMA) that UK changes to GP pensions are having far-ranging consequences for NHS services across the country.
Responding to Martin’s question on behalf of the UK government, Tory MP Jacob Rees-Mogg said many Members would sympathise with the issue and suggested it may be addressed in the UK Chancellor’s upcoming budget statement.
Martin Docherty-Hughes MP said:
“The GP out of hours service at the Vale of Leven Hospital is a vital local service and it’s deeply disappointing that it will now only be available from midnight to 8am Monday to Friday.
“I’ve written to the health board asking for an urgent meeting with the Chief Executive and seeking assurances that the full GP service will be restored as soon as possible.
“Having spoken with health professionals, it’s clear the lack of GPs available for out of hours services is down to pension and tax changes implemented by the UK government.
“According to the BMA there is a chronic shortage of GPs across the UK because of this and it’s critical the UK Chancellor takes action in the upcoming budget statement to resolve these problems with GP pensions.
“However, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde must also make clear its plan to restore these vital out of hours GP services at the Vale Hospital without unnecessary delay.
“I will continue working in conjunction with colleagues at the Scottish Parliament to press the health board on the importance of delivering sustainable health services for West Dunbartonshire.”
Martin’s letter in full to Chief Executive of NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde Jane Grant
Dear Ms Grant,
GP Out of hours service at Vale of Leven General Hospital
I write to express my deep disappointment to the news that the GP Out of Hours Service at the Vale of Leven General Hospital will be temporarily suspended in the evenings and at the weekends due significant challenges caused by national changes to pensions, in addition to local operational issues which have left fewer GPs available to work within Out-of-Hours.
Since the announcement my office has been inundated by constituents who have voiced their anger over the changes that have come into effect immediately. The closest service at the Royal Alexandria Hospital is at least a 40-minute car journey away for those living in the rural parts of my constituency and there are many within our community who rely upon public transport and this has the potential to stretch our ambulance service further.
In order to assure my constituents of the longer-term sustainability of the GP Out of Hours Service at the Vale of Leven General Hospital could you offer greater clarity on how temporary these measures are and what action plan the Health Board has in place to reinstate these services.
I recognise that one of the main reasons for fewer GPs being available is due to Treasury changes to pensions which discourages GPs from working outwith their regular hours.
Therefore, at the earliest opportunity I intend to call on the Treasury to announce pension taxation reform by immediately removing the taper and annual allowance in defined benefit schemes, such as the NHS Pension Scheme which is one way of encouraging GPs to participate in Out of Hours.
I would welcome the opportunity to discuss this issue with you as a matter of urgency and I await your response with anticipation.
Martin Docherty-Hughes MP