In a further community update about Brechin health services, it was revealed that plans are in place to introduce a “surgery pod” in December.
The pods allow people to self-test their vital signs - including weight and blood pressure - and answer a number of clinical questionnaires via an easy-to-use touch screen device.
The update continued: “All information gathered is shared directly into the patient’s electronic record for discussion with the healthcare professional at the next appointment. It is available in multiple languages. These are well used in other local sites with high levels of patient satisfaction, largely due to the flexibility it provides for people to access at their convenience as no appointment is required to use the service. While not everyone will choose to use this facility, we are confident that it will improve choice for patients, support the monitoring of hypertension (high blood pressure) and support better use of available nurse appointments.”
The update also outlined that the Minor Injuries and Illness Unit will continue to operate from the health centre until November when this will be reviewed with a view to future planning for this service.
Dr Michelle Watts, NHS Tayside associate medical director, also gave an update on the recruitment situation: “I am pleased to report that the GP staffing situation in Brechin is continuing to improve. Dr Penny Lockwood joined the practice in October and Dr Steve Pegg will continue to work in Brechin until April 2017.
“Whilst the situation remains challenging, we are continuing our national recruitment drive with the aim of attracting more permanent GPs to Brechin but until then we are well supported by our regular locums.
“I would like to reassure patients that GP and Nurse Practitioner appointments are available for those who need to be seen, but we do ask people to phone the health centre first on 01356 624411 so we can manage appointments more effectively.”
She also explained that advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs), experienced registered nurses who have completed a number of post-qualification training courses, are providing support.
She explained: “Nigel Clubb started as a new ANP in the practice in September, bringing with him a wealth of experience of care in the community and in care of the older person. A third ANP is in the process of being recruited and is due to start in early November.”
A Health and Wellbeing Nurse, Amy McKenzie, is working in the practice two days per week to support patients requiring help with emotional concerns or identified mental health problems.
The community update also spoke about the North East Angus Locality Improvement Group, a body which - under Scottish Government plans - will increasingly have the responsibility for decision-making about how local healthcare services will be delivered in the future. The group is lead by Dr Marc Jacobs, GP at Edzell Health Care Centre.
A meeting between that group was held with healthcare professionals from the Angus Health and Social Care Partnership and NHS Tayside, representatives from Edzell Health Centre and Brechin Health Centre Patient Participation Groups, members of the North East Angus Locality Improvement Group and members of the Brechin Healthcare Group. The meeting heard that the Enhanced Community Support model started in Brechin and Edzell on October 24.
The model involves a variety of professionals including GPs, district nurses, occupational therapists and physiotherapists, pharmacists and specialist hospital doctors working together as a single team to support individual patients.
Concerns were also raised that a decision to close Brechin Infirmary had been already made without public consultation or was part of ‘hidden agenda.’
However, Gail Smith, head of health & community care services with Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, confirmed that no decision had been made to permanently close the Infirmary.
Attendees also raised a question about the future of Stracathro Hospital.
The facility, including the Stracathro Regional Treatment Centre, remains a key part of NHS Tayside’s service provision and there are absolutely no plans to close it.