Medics are warning NHS Tayside that the closure of a Perthshire GP practice poses a “house of cards” threat to other surgeries in the area.
The Tayside Local Medical Committee (LMC) lambasted senior management at the health board for “repeated failures” which led to the Bridge of Earn surgery closing last month.
The group, the representative body for general medical practitioners in the region, said the move was impacting on other practices which were having to make space for Bridge of Earn patients.
And it called on NHS Tayside to set a clear timescale for the return of the practice to the village.
The committee said: “Though the support of Perth GP practices taking on large numbers of patients at short notice is much appreciated; forced dispersal is destabilising, distressing for patients and should always be a last resort.
“They (NHS Tayside) have shut down a practice serving a rural population; placing significant pressure on remaining practices and risking the house of cards effect seen in other areas as more practices become unsustainable.”
The medical practitioner’s group added: “We believe there were repeated failures by senior management at NHS Tayside to make key decisions, and opportunities to maintain services for patients from fit for purpose community healthcare facilities were missed time and again.”
The accusations came on the same day health secretary Jeane Freeman agreed there was a “lack of clarity” over a long standing commitment to invest £1 million in the Bridge of Earn practice.
Ms Freeman faced parliamentary questions on the issue from Green MSP Mark Ruskell and Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser.
Mr Ruskell asked what progress was being made to bring the primary care estate back into public ownership.
Ms Freeman said: “The government is involved in the discussion around the first phase of the GP contract and has made additional investment available to primary care and GP practices in order to improve existing practices and remove some of the risk surrounding ownership and lease of existing practices.”
Following a question from Mr Fraser the health secretary said she intended to meet the chief executive of NHS Tayside and the chief officer of the health and social care partnership on September 25.
NHS Tayside confirmed it has commissioned an in-depth review to ensure lessons can be learned from the closure.
A spokeswoman said: “Reliable GP staffing is obviously critical to running a safe practice and therefore, in an effort to try to keep GP services local to Bridge of Earn, the Perth and Kinross Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP) and NHS Tayside offered a number of options to try to secure GP cover before the practice closed.
“These included the opportunity to operate Bridge of Earn as a satellite or branch practice and the chance to provide more flexible services in line with the needs of the population. We also asked if GPs were able to commit to work in the practice alongside a salaried GP.
“Unfortunately, no GP practices felt able to take up any of these proposals and the transfer of patients to nearby surgeries was the only safe option for patients to continue to be able to access GP services.”