This week's Community Column is written by Jackie Baillie, constituency MSP for the Helensburgh and Lomond area.

* * * * * * * * * * *

In June, the Cabinet Secretary for Health joined me and Helensburgh GP 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 GP 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 even further to access the most basic of health services outside of normal working hours as NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde continuously fails to secure sufficient GPs to fill the rota.

READ MORE: GPs 'will work with health chiefs' on Vale out-of-hours service's future

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 this 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 and the Cabinet Secretary supported 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 work well.

READ MORE: Health secretary says she sees a bright future for Vale of Leven Hospital

During the meeting the board committed to exploring the option in a workshop which will be organised in August. I have asked them to ensure that local GPs are included.

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 and to make changes which recognise our needs.

That must now end, and out of hours provision must be secured.

READ MORE: Check out all the latest Helensburgh and Lomond news headlines here