The future of the GP out-of-hours service at the Vale of Leven Hospital will only be secure when it is run by local doctors, according to Helensburgh’s MSP.

The comments were in response to a health chief at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC) reaffirming his commitment to the local GP out-of-hours service – despite a continued reduction in operating hours – following a meeting on Friday with campaign group Hospitalwatch.

Jonathan Best, chief operating officer for the health board, said he was committed to a “sustainable and robust GP out-of-hours service”.

He added: “It is important to note that, despite inevitable changes in the way the health service operates in the context of Covid-19, services will be maintained at the Vale of Leven.

READ MORE: Anger at latest change to out-of-hours GP service at Vale of Leven Hospital

“We are working with local GPs to provide a solution to extend that overnight service as soon as possible.”

But Jackie Baillie said NHSGGC had previous form “in riding roughshod over our community”.

She added: “For too long the health board have operated without consultation or any accountability.

“Health board chiefs thought that it was acceptable to make the decision in the midst of a global pandemic without listening to the views and needs of local people.

“I will only feel confidence in the future of this service when the responsibility for running it is transferred to local GPs.”

READ MORE: Health board accused of 'astonishing spin' over out-of-hours service at Vale of Leven Hospital

In early March, NHSGGC reduced the GP out-of-hours service’s operating hours as a “short-term contingency plan” as it was the only way to ensure the service was “sustainable”.

The hospital service had previously been plagued by last minute closures, mainly due to staffing issues, resulting in an inconsistent service for patients.

The reduction in hours was implemented as a major recruitment campaign for more GPs, advanced nurse practitioners and allied healthcare practitioners continued, but this has been held up due to Covid-19.

Four months on, the GP out-of-hours service is still operating 11am to 8am, seven nights a week. However, the health board says it is still a short-term plan.

READ MORE: Hospital campaigners say they have a new 'relationship of trust' with NHS chiefs over Vale's future

Jim Moohan, chairman of Hospitalwatch, said he had a “blunt” discussion with health chiefs, adding: “It was confirmed again that no-one would be refused medical attention at VOL. We shall continue to meet with the health board to improve service provision.”

The NHS also recently moved to an appointment based out-of-hours system, where patients must first call NHS24 on 111.

Susan Manion, interim chief officer NHSGGC’s GP out-of-hours, said: “The service will improve access to healthcare for the local community, giving patients more opportunities to be seen by a GP either in person, over the phone, or by video consultation.

“Many people will not have to leave their homes to receive care, and our patient transport system and GP home visiting services continue to operate as normal [if] someone needs to see a doctor but cannot access transport.”

The health board has confirmed that outwith the period between 11pm and 8am any patient needing direct access to a GP out-of-hours will be redirected to one of the other core GP out-of-hours centres or clinical services.

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