TWO doctors’ surgeries in Musselburgh will merge next week to form the largest practice in East Lothian, with about 19,000 patients.

Clinical and administrative staff and all patients from Eskbridge Medical Practice, totalling 8,870, will move over to the Riverside Medical Practice at midnight next Sunday (January 28).

Eskbridge, which was under NHS control, will close, with the enlarged Riverside practice continuing under the management of the GP partners under “independent contractor arrangements”.

The staff to patient ratio will increase. This will give patients access to GPs, practice nurses, nurse practitioners and other specialist health professionals serving the new practice.

Both – along with Inveresk Medical Practice, which is unaffected by the change – are located in Musselburgh Primary Care Centre on Inveresk Road.

The combined practice is also being supported by Collaborative Working for Immediate Care and NHS 24 to help patients to access the right help from the right health professional at the right time. Both services have been working in advance of the merger and feedback from patients so far has been positive.

Dr Richard Fairclough and Dr Joanna Stenke, partners at Riverside, issued a joint statement saying: “We are looking forward to welcoming you all to the new Riverside practice at the end of this month.

“We have been working hard with staff at Eskbridge, East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership and NHS Lothian to make the transition to the new arrangements as smooth as possible.

“We are hoping Eskbridge and Riverside patients will notice the benefits of our new more flexible service straight away. You will still be seeing familiar faces and meeting some new ones too.

“We will have a new number from the 29th – check the Musselburgh Courier, contact your practice or check our website from the 24th for more information. Our patient participation group will be out and about with information too.”

Eskbridge, which was taken under direct NHS control on December 1, 2015, was previously independently managed by its GP partners and supported five care homes in the Musselburgh area.

The move was prompted by pressures on the practice arising from national difficulties in recruiting new GPs after one doctor retired and another resigned.

A new booking system ‘Phone First’ was introduced whereby patients phone, leave their name and number, and a doctor calls them back.

But it has been heavily criticised, with concerns repeatedly raised at meetings of Musselburgh and Inveresk Community Council.

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