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Fife GP shortage: Campaign for improvements receives support following patient fears

Mr Downie is concerned about the Fife GP shortage
Locums aren't enough to bridge gaps, claims Graeme Downie.

A campaign for improvements to GP services in west Fife has secured the support of the new Fife Council administration.

Patients at Valleyfield Medical Practice fear it will take a death before concerns over an “appalling” appointments system are addressed.

Valleyfield Health Centre.

There is only one doctor in place at the practice, where just 15% of calls were answered between January and April.

One woman called 118 times before she managed to speak to a receptionist.

And another tried for days to get through after discovering a lump.

And while NHS Fife has pledged to continue efforts to recruit doctors, a national shortage means it has so far been unsuccessful.

Labour councillor Graeme Downie raised the issue at Thursday’s full Fife Council meeting.

And health spokesman David Graham agreed services must be improved.

He also urged the Scottish Government to do more to increase the number of GPs in Fife.

‘Lives are being put at risk’

Mr Downie said: “The situation at Valleyfield Medical Practice has been raised constantly with me, both before and since I was elected.

“I will not stop fighting until NHS Fife show me their plan to improve the situation.

“I am grateful for the support of Councillor Graham because local people are telling me that lives are being put at risk by the current situation.”

Councillor David Graham is concerned about the Fife GP shortage.

The catchment for Valleyfield Medical Practice includes the villages of High Valleyfield, Culross, Torryburn and Newmills.

Mr Graham said he supports the improvement of services across the region.

And he added: “This is a very, very important issue.

“There is a UK-side shortage of general practitioners and it’s something I’ve been raising for a number of years.

“I don’t see it getting any better at the moment.”

Mr Graham plans to discuss the issue with NHS Fife in the coming days.

NHS Fife working to recruit additional GPs

Dr Helen Hellewell, associate medical director of Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, confirmed a national GP shortage is making recruitment difficult across the country.

And she said: “We have been working for some time to recruit additional GPs for Valleyfield Medical Practice.

“However, despite significant efforts, we have not yet been able to make any permanent appointments.”

The efforts to recruit permanent medical staff at the Fife GP practice is continuing.

And in the meantime, it is supported by salaried and locum doctors.

Dr Hellewell said improvements had already been made to the telephone system at High Valleyfield.

These include the introduction of new phone lines and a change to the repeat prescription ordering service.

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