Plans have been unveiled to create a community-owned healthcare hub for north east Angus to address hospital closures.
Brechin Healthcare Group has expressed “grave concerns” for patients as a result of the new Angus Care Model which will see the redesign of inpatient care, the minor injury and illness and out-of-hours services and care home provision.
Grahame Lockhart, one of the group trustees, said the radical health shake-up which was approved earlier this year will leave many patients having to travel considerably further and increase financial pressure on people living in areas of high deprivation.
He said people living in Brechin, Edzell and the Glens, and the Montrose area, will have no access to services outwith GP practice opening hours and will have to travel to either Forfar, Arbroath or Dundee for immediate medical help.
The charity is now consulting with the local community to find out how it could provide healthcare and other services in the town to bridge the gap, with plans to set up a community-owned and run “Health and Wellbeing Hub”.
“Providing the required healthcare services to the people of north east Angus is clearly posing a challenge to NHS Tayside and Angus Health and Social Care Partnership,” said Mr Lockhart.
“However, Brechin Healthcare Group is currently working on a solution – a community-owned and run Health and Wellbeing Hub.
“Brechin Healthcare Group is open to working with local organisations and GPs, as well as Angus Council, NHS Tayside and Angus Health and Social Care Partnership to develop sustainable, effective ways to meet the healthcare needs of the local community, reflecting specific local circumstances.”
In January, the Integration Joint Board (IJB) for the AHSCP agreed a new care model, developed by clinicians in partnership with staff and stakeholders, which will provide “sustainable, safe and effective person-centred care for the future”.
Under the new plans, inpatient care will not be delivered from Brechin Infirmary, which has been non-operational since October 2015 or from Montrose Infirmary where the environment has been branded no longer suitable for the delivery of modern healthcare.
Mr Lockhart said: “This means there will be no access to services outwith GP practice opening hours, leaving north east Angus with no services at all between 6pm and 8am, Monday to Thursday, and from 6pm on Friday until 8am on Monday.”
“The members of Brechin Healthcare Group are also concerned that the new Angus Care Model appears to involve moving many of the services currently available at GP practices in Brechin and Montrose – including physiotherapy, blood tests, dressings, suture removal and ear syringing – to a single care and treatment centre somewhere in north east Angus.
“This would involve many patients having to travel considerably further than they do at present, which, as this is a rural area with considerable deprivation and limited public transport, will prove difficult and will be financially punitive.
“The implications of this model are very serious.
“During out of hours, unless NHS 24 sends a doctor out, people living in Brechin, Edzell and the Glens, and the Montrose area, will have to make an appointment through NHS 24 before travelling to either Forfar, Arbroath or Ninewells in Dundee for immediate medical help.
“Is this really person-centred service design?”
Brechin Healthcare Group received funding from Angus Council’s Participatory Budgeting event – ‘Your Budget Your Choice’.
The healthcare hub will be on the agenda when the charity holds a YBYC-funded public meeting/information evening at Brechin City Hall from 7pm-9pm on Monday March 26.
Hugh Robertson, chair of the Integration Joint Board (IJB) for Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, hit back at the claims made by the charity.He said: “It is unfortunate that there would appear to various interested parties within the Brechin and Montrose communities who, while no doubt well intentioned, are misinforming and misleading our communities about the future of health and social care provision within North East Angus.
“I am concerned that this leads to unnecessary concern and anxiety within our communities, particularly amongst those who rely on our services.
“I can assure everyone that the Angus Care Model approved by the IJB is reshaping our services across Angus in a manner which will ensure that our services are sustainable, safe, reliable, and effective.
“The challenges we face mean that we need to continue with the development of this Model and not addressing these challenges would be irresponsible and is neither a sustainable nor viable position.
“We are committed to the development of services which meet the needs of Angus communities and we are working with local GPs and our Locality Improvement Groups which are made up of members of the public and healthcare professionals.
“We have also held public engagement events which have been well attended and have generated helpful, positive and informative feedback.
“Further events are planned in the four Angus localities next week and I would I strongly encourage everyone to come along to hear first-hand from local doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals how our plans for delivering health and social care across Angus are developing.”