In June, the Cabinet Secretary for Health joined me and Dr Brian McLachlan in a visit to the Vale of Leven Hospital.

While the visit included a tour of the hospital, the main topic of conversation was the constant closure of the out of hours service. People in the area will know of the real problems with the service over the past year and a half. Patients are being forced to travel to the Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, or further, to access the most basic of health services outside of normal working hours as NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde continuously fail to secure sufficient GPs to fill the rota.

During a public meeting with the health board on their Moving Forward Together Programme in Helensburgh this year, it was suggested that the problems with the Vale’s out of hours service could be solved by creating a similar model to that which is used for the Medical Assessment Unit. The rota for the Medical Assessment Unit is organised by a group of local GPs who bring in colleagues from the local area and more widely across Glasgow and Clyde to cover shifts at the Vale.

The model was discussed during our meeting with the cabinet secretary and members of the health board, with the Cabinet Secretary supporting trialling the model at the Vale. I was pleased to hear that models similar to this are currently being used in other parts of Scotland and that the results are positive.

The health board have now committed to organising a workshop in August which will explore whether this model can be introduced at the Vale. I have asked the health board to ensure that local GPs are included in the workshop to ensure that the unique concerns of our community are heard.

Time and time again I have written to the health board on behalf of constituents to describe the geographical difficulties that people in our area have in accessing other hospitals in the board’s catchment area. But time and time again they fail to listen or make changes which recognise are our needs.

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I hope that following our discussion with the cabinet secretary they will ensure that the whole of their Moving Forward Together Programme - including any changes made to out of hours - will take account of the geography of the Vale and the transport infrastructure which supports our communities. Nothing less will do.