Opposition to GP out of hours service reduction

COUNCILLORS in Inverclyde have opposed a reduction in the local GP out of hours service and called for a full public consultation over any potential permanent changes.

The plea was made by the council’s depute leader, Councillor Natasha McGuire, in a motion submitted to the full council meeting on Thursday 16 February 2023 and seconded by Councillor Jim Clocherty, who is convener of education and communities.

The motion, which was approved following a vote, also requested that the council leader writes to the chair and chief executive of the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board expressing the local authority’s opposition to the reduction to the service and to contact Health Improvement Scotland – Community Engagement calling for a full public consultation into any proposed changes.

Councillor McGuire said: “We must do all we can to protect services in our community, especially health services, and the decision not to reinstate GP out of hours provision in full represents an erosion of services and will affect the most vulnerable in our society.

“We need a full and open public consultation into any proposed changes before they are made permanent.”

Councillor Clocherty, who seconded the motion, said: “There is understandably significant concern about the reduction in the local GP out of hours service and with no full reinstatement in sight, as is highlighted by over 6,000 people who have signed a petition opposing any downgrading of the service.

“We should be making health services as accessible to people as possible, not creating more barriers to get the help and support they need.”

The motion that was approved at the meeting is as follows:

Inverclyde Out of Hours Services

Council notes that prior to February 2020, Inverclyde was served by a GP Out of Hours Service seven days a week. This service was reduced in February 2020 when the GP Out of Hours service for the Greater Glasgow and Clyde area entered business continuity arrangements. In March 2020, Councillors McCabe and Moran wrote to the Chair of the Health Board, Professor John Brown, expressing the Council’s disappointment at this decision. At the time, the arrangement was intended to be a temporary measure. Almost three years on, the GP Out of Hours Service remains in business continuity arrangements. In December, the Greenock Telegraph reported that there were no plans to return a full Out of Hours Service to Inverclyde, meaning that many patients would have to travel to Paisley and Glasgow. Continuing without a full out of hours service in Inverclyde would represent a further downgrading of NHS services in our area and would have a particular effect on the poorest and most vulnerable. This proposal has created significant concern in the Inverclyde community with over 6000 people signing a petition against changes to out of hours and calling for a full service to be reinstated. No consultation has been undertaken on plans to permanently reduce the service in Inverclyde. Council believes that any consultation should consider these changes as a major service change, and be open to a full public consultation. Council further believes that for the purposes of consultation, any proposals for change should be measured against the service prior to February 2020 and not after. Council is asked to express its opposition to Health Board plans not to return a full Out of Hours service to Inverclyde; requests that the Leader of the Council write to the Chair and Chief Executive of the Health Board expressing the Council’s opposition and enclosing a copy of this motion; requests that the Leader of the Council writes to Healthcare Improvement Scotland – Community Engagement expressing Council’s view that any proposed changes constitute a major service change and should be subject to a full public consultation.

Proposed: Councillor McGuire

Seconded: Councillor Clocherty