PATIENTS at Riverside Medical Practice in Musselburgh are being urged to express their views about the service to its Patient Participation Group, which provides a link with healthcare bosses.

The group has been running for just over a year after Riverside merged with Eskbridge Medical Practice to form the largest practice in East Lothian and one of the biggest in Scotland, with about 19,000 patients.

With 12 active members who are all volunteers, the group acts as a connection between patients and the practice, which has been dogged in the past by concerns of long waits to get through to the surgery by telephone, poor communication with patients and long waiting times to see a named GP.

PPG member Margaret McKay, former chief executive of Children 1st, CHAS and director of ChildLine Scotland, said: “General practice in Scotland is scheduled to change significantly over the next two to three years with the introduction of a new national GP contract.

“Patients are more likely to be offered appointments with a range of different health professionals rather than automatically seeing a GP.

“This will be a big change for many patients. Change can be difficult and can cause anxiety and distress.

“The aim of the PPG over the next two years is to increase and expand the information available to patients, and to capture their opinions and experiences regularly with a view to informing the services provided by the practice.

“The PPG highlights to the practice any healthcare issues and concerns within the local community that we feel are relevant to the work of the medical staff but we do not deal with individual medical complaints.”

The PPG is chaired by retired Borders GP Andrew Davies, who now lives in Musselburgh.

In late August/September, ‘Patient Journey’ information sessions will be held at the practice when the Collaborative Working for Immediate Care (CWIC) on-the-day service will be highlighted. This provides access to medical professionals, such as nurse practitioners, musculoskeletal specialist and mental health occupational therapist, working alongside and supported by the GPs.

Mrs McKay, a board member of Carers of East Lothian and volunteer adviser for the East Lothian Group of People First, said: “The practice is working really hard to overcome a number of the issues that have been raised and the on-the-day service has received very positive feedback.

“The practice is to be commended for wanting to have a PPG because they recognise that what patients have to say is really important and, when it can be accommodated, it should be.”

The group will also have a presence at the community open day at The Brunton on Saturday, September 21.

A survey held at last year’s flu clinic will be rerun this year to gauge patient satisfaction and other groups will also be surveyed, such as parents attending baby and toddler clinics. This led to online booking appointments being extended for all the GPs and the practice website given higher priority.

A website will also be set up so that continuous feedback from patients is placed in the public domain and recommendations for change in the practice can be seen and measured.

The practice information booklet was reviewed and changes to the language and layout were recommended to make it more easy read and understood by patients.

A ‘patient pathway’ poster was produced for display in the practice showing who does what and where to go for healthcare in Musselburgh.

With the agreement of the practice manager, changes were made to the waiting area in the surgery to make it more attractive. This included rearranging the seating, removing all out of date material, providing attractive pictures for the walls and recommending to the practice that it purchases display cabinets for leaflets and health information booklets.

The PPG has drafted a constitution which ensures that membership is open to patients, with a working group membership of 19.

In a joint statement, Dr Richard Fairclough and Dr Joanna Stenke said: “Riverside Medical Practice greatly appreciates the input we receive from the members of our PPG. The group are a good source of feedback and suggestions which we use to continually improve our service. We look forward to continuing to work closely with the PPG for the benefit of our patients.”

The PPG can be contacted at