HEALTH chiefs are being asked to meet with a local community over concerns a ‘radical’ new service is creating inequality among its most vulnerable residents.

Prestonpans Community Council is demanding answers after its local GP practice said it could not sign up to the service, describing it as ‘not good’ for patients.

At a meeting of the community council on Tuesday,  Dr Anna Beedel, from Prestonpans Health Centre, said the CWIC (Care When It Counts) service created by East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership with additional Scottish Government funding had left patients faced with difficult journeys for minor treatments.

And she argued it flew in the face of the Scottish Government’s intentions for the funding as well as its  20-minute neighbourhood policy requires people to be able to access core services within 20 minutes from their home.

A new GP contract agreed in 2018 saw 20 per cent extra funding provided by the Scottish Government to allow health and social care partnerships to employ staff such as pharmacists, physiotherapists, and nurse practitioners  to ease pressure on GPs by taking some of the traditional work away from them.

Dr Beedel said the new contract stated that new staff should, ‘where appropriate’, be aligned to GP practices but East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership decided to separate them into a new service.

READ MORE: Musselburgh practice expansion justifies CWIC base

She told the community council that no consultations had been held with the GP practices over the new service and how it could support them.

Instead, the CWIC team was established in Musselburgh Health Centre and same day appointments were offered to GP practices further afield.

The Prestonpans centre was offered 120 appointment a week with the new service but while initial consultation with patients referred to it were over the phone, if the patient then needed to be seen or even have something as simple as a sample handed in, they would have to travel to Musselburgh to do it.

Dr Beedel said: “We rejected this as we believe it would increase health inequality for patients who do not have easy access to private transport, particularly the elderly and those with disabilities but also some parents of young children.

“We do not believe it is good primary care. Primary care should be based within the community, and accountable to that community.”

She added that the practice had offered the CWIC service a room at the Prestonpans centre equipped with a computer to base one of their team and provide just 60 appointments a week in the town but their proposal was rejected.

The new GP contract agreed with the Scottish Government states: “Crucial to this agreement is that services will only be transferred where it is sustainable for the local healthcare system and, most importantly, where it is safe, appropriate, and improves patient care.”

Dr Beedel told the meeting: “We have a massive concern that this is going to increase health inequalities. Many patients cannot get to Musselburgh.

“Geographically, It is not that far but it is not a very easy place to get to if you do not have private transport.

“What they are doing seems to be largely radical. I do not think it is going to be effective; it is not good for patients and it is not good for our staff.”

East Lothian Courier: Prstonpans patients will have to travel to Musselburgh Primary Care Centre if they want to access CWIC servicesPrstonpans patients will have to travel to Musselburgh Primary Care Centre if they want to access CWIC services

Dr Beedel said in other health areas, GP practices had been consulted about what additional services they needed and, where possible, were given the extra staff in their practice.

Community councillor Calum Miller said: “I don’t think it is radical, I think it is ridiculous.

“We have not seen a consultation on this. Who is representing our interest in Prestonpans when we are not being made aware of changes in our community?”

And Mr Miller, referring  to  problems with Musselburgh GP practices which saw NHS Lothian intervene and a lot of work take place to try and improve services, added: “It seems they are trying to shore up the reputation of the practices they have an interest in by stealing resources from elsewhere.

”The health outcomes in Prestonpans will be considerably poorer because of it.”

Ward Councillor Lachlan Bruce also expressed concern at a lack of consultation, saying he only learned of the issue last week.

He said: “Our practice is held in high regard in Prestonpans, and if patients can see the same members of staff it would be so much better.

“I am concerned that some people just won’t go because they do not now the people in Musselburgh.”

More than 30 pages of comments logged on the community council’s Facebook page over the changes were circulated at the meeting, with the overwhelming majority against the changes to the service.

Dr Jon Turvill, East Lothian Health and Social Care clinical director and GP at Cockenzie’s Harbours Medical Practice said: “The East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership has been working closely with Prestonpans Practice and we understand they have no plans to introduce the Care When It Counts (CWIC) service at this time.

“Feedback has shown it is appreciated by patients in the Musselburgh, Cockenzie, Port Seton and Tranent areas.

“It offers same day access to highly qualified health practitioners, who can deal with health concerns quickly and effectively.

“It also enables GPs to focus on patients with complex and long-term needs. However there is no requirement for any other practice to use the CWIC service and Prestonpans patients can and do continue to benefit from the many other ELHSCP-delivered services provided, for example, MSK, pharmacotherapy, mentalhealth and community link workers.”

Prestonpans Community Council has written to Alison Macdonald,  East Lothian  Health and Social Care Partnership’s chief officer, requesting a meeting with her and Dr Beedel this week.

The letter says: “Prestonpans communitycouncillors do not think introducing aspects of local health care that requires patients to travel into Musselbugh for treatment is in the interests of the community we represent and would like to explore alternative ways of delivering primary health care services in Prestonpans.”