A GP has slammed the new Angus Care Model for inpatient services, claiming the views of patients and local medics have been ignored.
Dr Kristien Hintjens of the Townhead Medical Practice in Montrose has raised concerns for the future of health services in the wake of the closure of the Mulberry mental health unit at Stracathro Hospital and the loss of 36 GP beds across north east and west Angus.
She claimed the move was a political one to increase Medicine for the Elderly (MFE) presence in Angus which she claims is a more expensive model of care compared to GP beds.
She said: “GPs in these areas have not been included in discussions and GPs in Forfar, Brechin and Montrose are against this decision.
“It takes no account of the high quality of GP bed-based care nationally, locally described as exceptional by the Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, and the evidence to support the role of GP community hospitals which the Scottish Government have outlined in the past.”
Dr Hintjens claimed the increasingly elderly frail population is not being listened to.
“I am appalled at the way GP beds in Whitehills, Montrose and Brechin will essentially be removed in one fell swoop.
“How can the decision-makers of this review think they are doing the residents of Angus a good turn by closing so many beds?
“Our elderly population is set to double in the next 20 years. So how does closing 36 beds – if we include those in Brechin – improve care for our patients?
“This is a decision based on shifting resources away from our communities into more specialised and medicalised care.
“This is not the most appropriate service for dying, or very frail and complex people in the autumn of their lives. The elderly and sick in our communities will get a worse deal, with more chance of dying in Ninewells Hospital, away from friends and family.”
She said she will no longer be able to support her patients “with continuity and dignity”, avoiding over-investigation and overtreatment, as she will no longer have a bed to take them.
She condemned the lack of information, stating: “I speak to my patients, my nursing colleagues in Montrose Infirmary and my GP colleagues about these issues.
“None of us has yet been given clear notice of when these units will close and nursing management are not telling their staff in the GP ward in Montrose what is happening or what is planned.”
Dr Hintjens’ said her faith in the consultation processes for all the closures has been “shattered” but vowed she will continue to challenge these decisions through the appropriate channels.
“I raised this with Nicola Sturgeon at the public meetings held in Montrose in May but things have not improved.
“Perhaps a glimmer of hope is afforded by the fact that the new GP Contract in April this year will give primary care a bit more control over such precious and valuable local healthcare provision. The problem is that in Angus, we will have little left.”
Angus Health and Social Care Partnership has defended the new Angus Care Model in response to criticism raised by Dr Hintjens.
It rejected allegations that neither local doctors nor the elderly population had been listened to and argued regular briefing sessions had been held with staff to keep them fully informed of any changes.
Addressing the loss of 36 GP beds it stated its resources were not being used in “the most effective way”.
There are more hospital beds than needed in older buildings not fit for the delivery of modern healthcare and a review revealed that on average there were 37 inpatient beds unoccupied daily.
A series of public meetings was held and all Angus GPs were invited to attend and contribute to the development of the Angus Care Model, said a spokesperson.
GPs had also been given the opportunity to provide input through locality improvement groups, GP cluster meetings and the Angus clinical partnership group.
“We will continue to ensure we involve GPs and our staff and listen to their views as we develop and implement the Angus Care Model,” the partnership said.
“The people of Angus tell us they do not want to be admitted to hospital unless absolutely necessary and would like to stay in their own homes for as long as possible.
“The implementation of the Angus Care Model will bring care much closer to patients’ homes and we give assurance that we will support the best models of care delivered as locally as possible.”
Regular briefings have been issued and shared with all staff and managers give regular updates to senior charge nurses about the new model, the spokesperson added.
No timescale has been agreed for the withdrawal of inpatient care from Montrose Infirmary or the development of inpatient care on other sites but there was a commitment to keep staff updated.