AN EXTERNAL review is to take place to assess patients' concerns about access to care at Riverside Medical Practice in Musselburgh, East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership (ELHSCP) has announced.

Riverside – the largest practice in East Lothian and one of the biggest in Scotland, with about 19,000 patients – has come under continued fire from patients, who have complained of difficulties getting in contact by phone and booking an appointment.

The independent review is designed to gather patient feedback and consider how the practice provides access.

It will cover areas such as triaging and prioritising of patients' needs and clinical capacity.

The panel will engage with patients to hear about their experiences accessing care at Riverside and will also review day-to-day operations.

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Alison Macdonald, chief officer for ELHSCP, said: “Although the model of care in Riverside has allowed the practice to provide high-quality care for more patients than they ever did before, we know there are still challenges and possibly areas where improvement is needed.

“For this reason, we are commissioning a full review in which we will engage with patients in our community and use this feedback to decide our next steps.”

The review team will also look at feedback previously given by patients and gather more specific and up-to-date comments from the community.

It will look at the various methods available to patients to contact the practice, how successful these have been and if improvements are needed.

The patient triage system within the practice will also be reviewed to optimise good utilisation of clinical capacity, as well as assessing what support is needed to ensure there is enough capacity to match patient demand.

New way of accessing care

Riverside Medical Practice was the first primary care centre in East Lothian to use a new way of accessing care by having patient care needs triaged over the phone. This aims to provide advice so the patient will receive the treatment they need by the right person in the right place at the right time.

As well as GPs, it meant that patients would also have access to ELHSCP’s CWIC (Care When It Counts) team, which is predominantly lead nurse practitioners.

Services run by ELHSCP which support the practice, such as the CWIC team, will also be reviewed as part of this process.

The review is being fully supported by Riverside Medical Practice, NHS Lothian, and ELHSCP.

The practice, which is based at Musselburgh Primary Care Centre, has previously highlighted a shortfall between the number of appointments that patients request and the number it can provide, previously saying: "We do need everyone to understand that capacity is the real issue here, not how quickly you can get through on the phone. In areas with significant health needs, this is a particular issue."

Talks have been taking place at Scottish Government level in a bid to solve the long-standing access issues.