Health chiefs have launched a wide ranging review of “vulnerable” GP services across Tayside.
They want to avoid a repeat of a recent controversy in Bridge of Earn, Perthshire, where the village practice was forced to shut suddenly with more than 3,500 patients displaced.
Similar fears were raised about services in Methven last week – although officials have stressed the surgery there there will not be closed.
Sir Lewis Ritchie, who previously led an independent assessment of NHS Tayside’s finances, has been brought on board to investigate a list of “at risk” rural practices.
It is part of a wider plan to “re-invigorate” the system, and could lead to mergers between services.
“We are carrying out a review of the events that compressed into the Bridge of Earn practice, so that we can learn from that experience,” said chief executive Grant Archibald.
“I have asked Dr Jane Bruce, associate medical director of primary care, to begin a review of practices elsewhere in Tayside, that might be vulnerable.
“These might be single-handed practices where an elderly GP is looking to retire, or it might be that there is an issue with the property.”
The list, which NHS Tayside has declined to make public, rates surgeries with a traffic light colour system, with red for those at the most at risk.
Sir Lewis will visit Bridge of Earn and other rural parts of the region to gather evidence for a GP sub-committee.
“The challenge is that we may need to look at GP practices coming together, or satellite services,” Mr Archibald said.
“We have been talking to Perth and Kinross Council chief executive Karen Reid about the co-location of services. For example, that could be a hub with social work as well as GP services.”
It has also emerged that an old nurses’ house in Bridge of Earn is being redeveloped as a base for nursing staff.
An NHS Tayside spokeswoman said the Primary Care Service risk assessment project was still in its early stages.
“This work will help to identify GP practices which may be vulnerable or which may need support from NHS Tayside and builds on current practice to support practices to recruit and retain GPs and build wider multidisciplinary teams,” she said.
“The information gathered will be used to inform discussions with the GP Sub Committee and GPs about the future provision and sustainability of GP services across Tayside.”