AT AN extraordinary public meeting on Monday a Cowal GP claimed his practice was close to bankruptcy because of NHS funding changes.
Dr Robbie Coull of Strachur Medical Practice called the meeting in the village’s New Hall to highlight changes within the practice, which covers a massive geographical area - from Cairndow to Strathlachlan.
Around 50 patients turned out and the first question was asked before Dr Coull had finished his introduction.
A patient asked why there was no NHS representation. Chair Heather Greir said: “An NHS rep was invited, but declined to attend.”
An NHS Highland spokesman said: “Our primary care staff regularly meet with GPs and a wide range of issues are discussed as part of these meetings.”
Dr Coull revealed that an NHS funding cut, and a £6,000 drop in dispensary profits, led to practice funds being so low it was close to being unable to pay its drugs bill last month. He said: "This practice is close to bankruptcy.”
The practice, along with others, used to be paid for having a doctor on call at weekends and in the evening. A part-time GP was employed in each practice to allow this. In 2007 - along with practices at Kilmun, Tighnabruaich and Lochgoilhead - Strachur opted out of providing these services.
Dr Coull said: “All the local practices have opted out of out-of-hours cover. We are the only one to have lost funding.”
However, a spokesman for NHS Highland said: “Tighnabruaich also had its funding reviewed and reduced when they opted out of providing out-of-hours last year.”
The NHS spokesman continued: “GP practices are funded under the national General Medical Services contract and the practice in Strachur is no different.
“As part of this contract the practice was provided with a nationally-agreed practice sum and additional funding was also made available to cover the cost of the part-time salaried GP, who was in post in 2004 when the practice provided its own out-of-hours cover.
“It was made clear at that time that if the salaried GP left the practice the additional funding could be reviewed.
“In 2007 the practice decided to opt out of providing an out-of-hours service for its patients, as was its right, and their practice funding was reduced by a nationally agreed sum, as per the GMS contract, because they no longer provided out-of-hours.
“Even with this reduction in service provision we did not reduce the additional funding for the part-time salaried GP who remained in post.
“In 2010 when the part time GP sadly passed away the practice was informed that the additional funding would be reviewed and it was subsequently reduced because the practice had opted out of providing an out-of-hours service.
“It is important to highlight however that they still receive a substantial sum of money for locum cover so that the resident GP can have six weeks annual leave as well as two weeks study leave.”
We understand that practice funding was reduced from £35,000 to pay a salaried GP to £20,000 for a locum.
Dr Coull told the meeting that he had bought a practice ambulance, yet to be liveried, which he would use, on a voluntary basis, for local emergencies.
• The Strachur GP is sole director of a company called CowalDoc, which intends to bid for the out-of-hours GP service to cover the entire Cowal peninsula later this year. The company’s website, www.cowaldoc.co.uk, details its plans.
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