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Alford Medical Practice to end NHS Grampian contract

By Kyle Ritchie

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The Alford Medical Practice, which has just more than 5800 patients, has given notice that will end its contract with NHS Grampian to provide general medical services on June 12 next year.

It has been unable to recruit new GPs, which had led to the decision.

The practice will continue to run as normal over the next six months and there is no need for patients to move, or take any other action, at this time.

Alford Medical Practice is to end its contract with NHS Grampian to provide general medical services.
Alford Medical Practice is to end its contract with NHS Grampian to provide general medical services.

Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership (AHSCP) manager for South Aberdeenshire Shona Strachan said: “Alford Medical Practice has unfortunately, like many others across the country, found itself in the position of being unable to recruit new GPs and as a result the partners have taken the very difficult decision to hand back their contract to us.

“The Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership, along with the practice and other partners, are working together to ensure continued sustainable, high-quality primary care services to patients currently registered at the Alford practice.

“I appreciate that this is an uncertain time for those registered with the practice, however Alford Medical Practice will continue as normal over the next six months and there is no need for patients to change their practice, or take any other action, at this time.

“I would also like to reassure patients that we will keep them informed throughout the process and whilst I fully understand that this is an unsettling time, I can promise that we are doing all we can to make the process as smooth as possible.

"There is no need for patients to take any action as the practice will continue operating as normal over the coming months and I would ask the community to refrain from contacting the practice with queries as there is no further information available at the moment.”

Dr Nicholas Shanks, partner at Alford Medical Practice, said: “This has been an extremely difficult decision for the partners; however we cannot continue to provide the level of care we would wish to without recruiting new GPs to the practice.

"We have explored every avenue to recruit, however the national shortage of trained GPs, combined with the added pressures that Covid-19 has brought, has meant that we have been unsuccessful.”

Dr Shona Blues, partner at Alford Medical Practice, said: “We are all very sad to have had to make this decision and we would like to thank all of the practice staff for their continuing commitment to our patients and the professionalism which they demonstrate every day.

"I would also like to thank our patients and I can promise that we will work with the Aberdeenshire Health and Social Care Partnership to make the handover of our contract as smooth as possible.”

Practice staff have been informed of the situation and patients will be contacted directly in due course. Further updates will be provided as matters progress.

While the practice’s contract for general medical services is with NHS Grampian it will be the AHSCP that will be responsible for ensuring the continued delivery of primary care services to the Alford population.

The next step is to put the contract out to tender to give other practices the opportunity to take over the running of Alford Medical Practice.

Should there be no interest then the partnership will take the contract on and run it as it has had to do in Mintlaw, Aberchirder and An Caorann in Portsoy.

The partnership does not anticipate any job losses at the practice.

West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine MP Andrew Bowie said: "After the same thing happened at Torphins, rural GP provision needs to be looked at urgently by the Scottish Government.

"Five years after a SNP manifesto promise to recruit 250 support staff for doctors' surgeries, not a one made it to Aberdeenshire.

"Rural GPs are under huge pressure that doesn't seem to be appreciated in Edinburgh.

"They are toiling to see patients and make referrals because of restrictions, while vaccinating in large numbers.

"It's time to allocate the resources so GPs can run their own workplaces efficiently, and take the strain off local health and social care."

Aberdeenshire West MSP Alexander Burnett said: "This is disappointing news that is a symptom of wider pressures within Scotland's health and social care system.

"Simply put, the SNP government failed to recruit sufficient numbers of clinical staff to run GP surgeries optimally.

"More and more local healthcare settings are feeling the pinch as a result.

"Alford will likely not be the last to hand the GP contract back to NHS Grampian.

"I have no doubt the health and social care partnership will do their best to cope with additional pressures caused by running surgeries.

"However, there are already many demands placed on them due to the pandemic, and recruitment problems elsewhere."

Local councillor Robbie Withey said: "As a resident and patient of the surgery myself, I know how important this practice is to my neighbours.

"If there aren't enough doctors or nurses to run rural surgeries, that shortfall has been known about for years.

"People in Aberdeenshire will expect that shortfall to be addressed as a priority by the SNP-Green coalition."

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