A Musselburgh medical practice has published its final report, detailing progress on 17 recommendations made by an independent review team in September last year.

Riverside is the largest practice in East Lothian and one of the biggest in Scotland, but in recent years has been continuously criticised by patients, who report difficulties getting in contact by phone and booking an appointment.

The independent review was commissioned by East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership (ELHSCP), at the request of then Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care Humza Yousaf MSP, following petitioning by local MSPs on behalf of patients.

“We believe we’ve made good progress on the recommendations and have provided regular updates to keep patients and stakeholders up to date on the steps we’ve taken,” said Dr Richard Fairclough, GP partner at the practice, which is based at the Musselburgh Primary Care Centre.

He explained: “Of the 15 recommendations assigned to Riverside to lead on, we’ve completed 10, changed one with agreement of the review chair, and are progressing well with the remaining four.

“Key things we’ve been working on in response to the recommendations include putting in place a new phone system, better matching our reception team resource to patient demand across the week, starting to develop a new Patient Panel, increasing our use of online medication review, and continuing our work to signpost patients to the right place to get the care they need.

He added: “Post review, we believe it’s now clearer to everyone that we and ELHSCP share responsibility for the care of Riverside patients, and that appointments should be provided by both parties.

“We thank ELHSCP for acknowledging this shared responsibility in our joint statement of March 2023, and also their recognition that – despite this joint responsibility – patient frustration over recent years has been primarily directed at Riverside.”

Dr Fairclough said: “In this situation where responsibility for patient care is shared, being at the forefront of criticism has inevitably impacted morale among our dedicated, hardworking team.

“We thank each and every one of them for continuing to work here with us, providing such expert care to the people of Musselburgh.

“We’re proud to have maintained our workforce over the last 18 months.

“At a time when the NHS as a whole faces extreme recruitment challenges – and GPs in particular are in short supply – we consider this a real achievement.

“This is especially the case as we see practices around us in Lothian – and elsewhere in Scotland – handing back their contracts due to recruitment challenges.

“The independent review also provided much-needed clarity on our staffing and appointment provision at Riverside.

“Our staffing was recognised by the review team as being comparable to other practices, along with the fact that the number of appointments our clinicians provide each day are within BMA guidelines on safe working practices.

“Our team will continue to provide excellent care to people in Musselburgh, and we remain focused on our work to improve access to this care – as much as we (as an individual practice) can with the resources we have available to us.”

He explained: “Ultimately, though, there is no magic wand: if practices and local health boards are doing all that they can yet patient needs remain unmet, then we must all – health professionals and patients alike – ask those in the Scottish Government to act.

“If the government is unable or unwilling to do this, then honesty about the limit of what the NHS can provide is needed.

“Looking forward to what we can do at the practice, we’re committed to making any and every change we can for patients which doesn’t risk the stability of our team. Many of them may be small changes but every small change can lead to a better experience for many patients, and for each individual patient that may be significant.”

Patients can read Riverside’s final report at www.theriversidepractice.co.uk/review or in the practice’s main waiting room.