Tarves fury over GP surgery closure

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Furious patients have condemned the looming closure of a long-established GP surgery in Tarves.

They vented their anger at a packed public meeting called by NHS Grampian in the village’s Melvin Hall on Monday night.

Health officials and Haddo Medical Group doctors gave an update on the future of local medical services.

The group has around 5,000 patients and operates from a main site at Pitmedden with branch surgeries at Tarves and Methlick.

Following the opening of a community pharmacy in Tarves, the medical group was informed by NHS Grampian there was no longer a requirement for it to dispense medicines to local patients.

The Tarves service will stop on September 7 and the group has told NHS bosses of its intention to shut the surgery on the same day.

Dispensing will stop at the Pitmedden site on April 5 next year. However, the service will continue at the Methlick surgery.

The Tarves surgery closure follows a long-running row over local dispensing services.

A petition was raised when Gourock-based TLC Pharmacy announced plans to open a private pharmacy at Tarves. NHS Grampian vetoed the scheme but this was later overturned on appeal.

Monday’s meeting heard that more than 50% of the Haddo Medical Group’s income comes from dispensing services.

Faced with such a loss of income they decided it was no longer economically viable to keep the Tarves surgery open.

One speaker said it appeared to have been a “fait accompli” regardless of the feeling in the village. Others warned of the transport problems that would arise from attending Pitmedden.

Pamela Gowans, one of two NHS Grampian officials who addressed the meeting, said the difficulty with the pharmacy regulations was that they did not take into account “the nuances” which occur within rural communities.

She added: “The practice have assured us that in terms of service provision, in terms of the services that are available to you, those services will continue to be available. The one change is the location in which some of those services are clearly delivered.”

Gordon MP Malcolm Bruce told the meeting the Government had more than three years to “grasp the nettle” but had failed to do so.

He added: “We all know that what’s actually happened here is a very specific, calculated, commercial attack on this rural practice. What that demonstrates is that the regulation is not fit for purpose because it’s enabled them to get us in the position we are now.”

Local councillor Paul Johnston told the meeting: “Ultimately they are doing it in the name of the heath minister Nicola Sturgeon

and such a decision should be open, in the end, to some form of review.

“I have no doubt NHS Grampian have taken the correct decision according to the rules, but if the rules are daft you get a daft decision.”

He suggested that Tarves, Methlick and Udny Community Councils could have a meeting with the NHS Grampian board over the closure. e

Meanwhile, Aberdeenshire East MSP Alex Salmond has urged NHS Grampian to revisit the decision.