A STATEMENT from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has been branded “an astonishing piece of spin”, following a crunch meeting on the out-of-hours service at the Vale of Leven Hospital.

Local campaigners met with health board chiefs last week to discuss the temporary halt to the GP out-of-hours services between 5pm and 11pm.

Afterwards, the NHS released a statement claiming “24-hour access to medical care remains in place for the area”. However, later in the release it was noted the dedicated GP out-of-hours service will still only be in operation from 11pm until 8am, seven nights a week.

In response, Jackie Baillie, the area’s MSP, said: “This is an astonishing piece of spin by the health board. It says health care will be available 24 hours a day, but then you see in reality the GP out-of-hours is not available between 5pm and 11pm – at the busiest times.”

She then notes that patients from Dumbarton and the Vale are then being primarily sent to Stobhill and Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde stated the Vale of Leven’s Medical Assessment Unit (MAU), led by Dr Nick Dunn, a team of GPs and highly experienced nurses, continues to provide unscheduled care 24 hours a day, seven days a week as required.

The Minor Injuries Unit (MIU) remains in operation from 8am until 9pm every day. The MIU’s team of advanced nurse practitioners can treat the vast majority of minor injuries.

The dedicated GP out-of-hours service remains in operation seven nights a week and provides cover from 11pm until 8am, at which point normal service resumes. Any patient who requires GP out-of-hours care outwith 11pm and 8am will be redirected to one of the other core GP out-of-hours centres or clinical services, such as the MIU.

They also claim discussions are under way with GPs to finalise the future model for the Vale of Leven Hospital, and say there is a GP recruitment campaign to ensure the regular full GP out-of-hours service can be reinstated as soon as possible.

Alongside this, a new appointments system, a review of GP pay scales, additional engagement with the Scottish Ambulance Service to increase paramedic involvement in primary care, means the Vale of Leven Hospital will be able to provide a robust, reliable and safe dedicated urgent GP out-of-hours service for the foreseeable future.

The chairman of the Hospitalwatch campaign group says he is “content” with the health board’s position.

Jim Moohan told the Reporter: “We’re very content. We now have a statement that there is 24-hour medical cover at the Vale, and that’s a statement that hasn’t been made before. That is a goal we as Hospitalwatch have been working towards for 16 years, and we feel it is a line we have now crossed.

“We feel a gap has been closed and that the out-of-hours GP service will complement the MIU and MAU already in place.

“This means that not one member of this community – not one – will be refused medical attention and care at the Vale, whether that is by the out-of-hours GP service, the MIU or the MAU. What that level of care is, will be for GPs to judge.

“But people will be seen, initially, at the Vale, and the health board can’t slide away from that.”

Jonathan Best, chief operating officer, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “We fully acknowledge and understand the concerns raised by the community over the past two weeks, and we will look to reinstate a full dedicated GP out-of-hours service at the Vale of Leven as soon as possible.

“In the meantime, 24-hour cover remains in place for West Dunbartonshire. Alongside overnight GP out-of-hours care, our MAU team does a fantastic job round the clock, and the MIU provides an excellent service for most of the evening and throughout the weekend.”

Patients should always first phone NHS 24 on 111 for guidance on the most appropriate out-of-hours service.