A major change in the way that people in Helensburgh access GP out-of-hours services at the Vale of Leven Hospital has come under fire.

Health chiefs announced last week that appointments will now been needed for the out of hours service – a move that has been slammed by Jackie Baillie MSP and Hospitalwatch campaigner Jim Moohan.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde says the new arrangement will help create a more robust, reliable and sustainable service by reducing waiting times, enabling discrete appointments and improving access to GPs out-of-hours.

It says it will also ensure social distancing can be observed at urgent primary care centres.

However, Ms Baillie said the change "did not begin to address the problem of a lack of GPs on the rota or worries about access to face to face consultations with GPs".

READ MORE: Jackie Baillie "furious" as Vale of Leven's out-of-hours GP service is cut back

And Mr Moohan called for talks with the health board to show the strength of opposition to the move in Dumbarton and the Vale.

Arguing in favour of the changes, the board says in addition to having a scheduled appointment, patients will also have the opportunity for telephone consultations.

It adds that 'Attend Anywhere', which allows virtual consultations to take place, is being implemented across sites later this month, and combined, the new arrangement means patients will have access to healthcare without having to travel to an urgent primary care centre.

The MSP said: “Local residents in my constituency rely on the service that the Vale of Leven out-of-hours provides and I know that many will be concerned about what this change means for the future of the service in the long term.

“The ‘by appointment’ service is currently running as a way to cope with the difficulties presented by Covid-19.

READ MORE: Vale hospital campaigners hold crunch talks over future of GP out-of-hours service

"However, making this change permanent doesn’t begin to address the problem of a lack of GPs on the rota or worries about access to face to face consultations with GPs.

“This seems to be about centralising the service so you could be talking to a GP anywhere in Greater Glasgow and Clyde, whether it’s by phone or screen.

"The danger is that people will vote with their feet and end up at the front door of A&E instead.”

Mr Moohan, said the new arrangements did not address the long standing issue of transport and travel which was still a major concern for people seeking medical advice and treatment at night.

He added: “In June last year, in consultation with local GPs we formed a model for 24/7 cover at Vale of Leven Hospital which had the support of GPs.

“That model was approved by health secretary Jeane Freeman - so it went to the very heart of Government.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour leader slams health chiefs for 'spin' over Vale out-of-hours GP service

However, the health board intervened and ‘parked’ our model in favour of their large ‘umbrella’ vision for services.

“We consider it still to be a live issue on the table and if our expectations are not met we will involve Jeanne Freeman again.

"I have contacted the health board to discuss this matter and they have agreed this can take place within the next few weeks."

Dr Kerri Neylon, deputy medical director for primary care at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “The appointment only system plays a key role within a wider programme of service improvements for patients requiring urgent primary care and we’re pleased to see it being rolled out across Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“The way we access urgent primary care is changing, and the new system underpins a wider exercise to ensure the whole of Greater Glasgow and Clyde has access to a safe, reliable and sustainable GP out-of-hours service which maximises resources and technology to deliver high quality person centred care.”