A PLAN to expand Riverside Medical Practice in Musselburgh to take in patients from the Blindwells new town has been thrown out, community councillors have been told.

Members of Musselburgh & Inveresk Community Council were formally notified by Lothian NHS Board Primary Care Contractor that the move had not been approved.

However, they were told that the practice boundary has been amended to include the area south of Newcraighall, Old Craighall and the area to the west of Whitecraig, as well as the small area to the east of Musselburgh to include Levenhall, Goshen and Drummohr.

The community council strongly opposed any plans to extend the practice to Blindwells, between Prestonpans and Longniddry, where up to 6,000 new homes and community facilities are expected to be built in the next decade and beyond.

Members held a meeting with health bosses to protest against the proposal. Also raised were a number of complaints from patients, including difficulties trying to contact the practice by phone and the waiting time for people trying to make routine appointments.

Musselburgh’s MSP Colin Beattie held talks with Jeane Freeman MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport, later confirming that no expansion of the boundary would be allowed until the service was functioning “at a satisfactory standard”.

The practice is based at Musselburgh Primary Care Centre (MPCC), along with Inveresk Medical Practice, which is separate.

After it merged with Eskbridge Medical Practice, Riverside became the largest practice in East Lothian and one of the biggest in Scotland, with about 19,000 patients.

At its meeting in the Brunton Hall last month, the community council welcomed the decision not to expand into Blindwells.

Councillor Stuart Currie praised the group for its stance, saying: “That is a big win for the community council.

“At the end of the day, that was going to go through; it hadn’t come to the councillors and nobody knew anything about it.

“If the community hadn’t taken that up, it would have happened, as it seemed as though it was hurtling through. Credit where it’s due.”

Mr Beattie commented: “I have contacted Jeane Freeman to seek an update on this matter, though as far as I am aware there is an agreement that there would be no expansions of the boundary until the practice was in order.”

He added: “I am disappointed that NHS Lothian are not listening.

“It is clear to me that constituents are not receiving a good enough service from Riverside Medical Practice and it is not acceptable that I continuously pass on these concerns to deaf ears.

“To expand the boundary would go against logical advice and in my opinion this decision is irresponsible.

“I will continue to liaise with the Cabinet Secretary for Health and Sport to ensure that the practice is managed more effectively and to ensure that this situation is resolved.”

Dr Tracey Gillies, medical director at NHS Lothian, said: “NHS Lothian is working with East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership to ensure that Blindwells’ population is guaranteed access to primary care. Final decisions have still to be made.”

A spokesperson from Riverside Medical Practice commented: “In East Lothian, as in many parts of Scotland, people are living longer with increasingly complex health and care needs.

“In response to this growing challenge, Riverside Medical Practice has been working hard over the last few years to transform the way our patients are being cared for, working closely with a wider range of healthcare professionals to ensure the right care is provided by the right person at the time help is needed.

“Through this, the practice has made significant improvements in providing ‘same day’ appointments for those whose health concern may be urgent.

“In addition, through making these positive changes, Riverside has been able to provide more and longer advance bookable GP appointments. Riverside is growing our team of GPs and has successfully recruited seven new GPs over the last two years.”

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