North Angus doctors back round the table

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NORTH Angus’ General Practitioners will once again sit at the negotiating table with representatives of Tayside Health Board and Angus Community Health Partnership after they received reassurances not only over retention of Brechin and Montrose Infirmaries, but also future development.

The parties had been at loggerheads after the GPs withdrew from the talks stating at the time they felt their concerns were not being listened to. However, in the lest few months, Cabinet Secretary and Tayside North MSP, John Swinney, chaired a meeting which brought both parties face-to-face once again - and more importantly also resulted in potential agreement on a way forward.

Local GP, Dr Ross Duff, highlighted the fact that at long last, he and his colleagues felt they were “being heard.” He said: “After more than one year of trying to get Tayside Health Board & Angus Community Health Partnership to acknowledge that the 22 local GPs had legitimate concerns about the process and direction of the reorganisation process of our local community health services, we are now happy to report that some progress has been made.

“John Swinney brokered a meeting between local GP reps and Gerry Marr about 3 months ago, during which it was finally recognised and stated that the reorganisation process could be improved, and in particular, more attention should be paid to the opinions and advice of local clinicians.

“Assurances were given about the retention and indeed, development of the local community hospitals in Brechin & Montrose, as part of the drive to support more patients closer to their homes and families, and reduce the need to travel to Dundee, whenever it was considered safe and sensible to do so.

“The local GPs claims regarding the effectiveness, and value for money of our local Community Hospitals were confirmed by an independent expert, who endorsed the stance taken by the local GPs to retain and develop these services.

“Following certain assurances from Gerry Marr, the GPs then agreed to re-engage in discussion with Angus CHP, to further input to the development of community services in North East Angus.

“The GPs are keen to highlight that their aim has always been to oppose the erosion of services that they regard as effective, safe, popular with patients, and value for money.

“We are satisfied that we have eventually been listened to, our stance has been vindicated, and we look forward to a more fruitful partnership with local management than has hitherto been the case, which can only be to the benefit of our patients.”

Commenting on the situation regarding dialogue between GPs in North Angus and NHS Tayside, North Tayside MSP, Mr John Swinney said:“I am delighted to hear that further progress is being made between the North Angus GPs and NHS Tayside in discussion over the Angus Community Medicine and Rehabilitation Project.

“I felt that it was essential to get both sets of parties round the table to discuss their concerns in order to ensure that the needs of patients and health professionals was being addressed. I was, therefore, pleased to be able to facilitate discussion.

“I hope that we continue to see ongoing dialogue in this area.”

Angus Community Health Partnership Primary Care Manager Rhona Guild said, “NHS Tayside is delighted that the North East GPs have re-engaged in the Angus Community Medicine & Rehabilitation Redesign Programme. We know we already have good services available in Angus, but we, like all organisations are faced with continuing to deliver high quality services in challenging financial times, and with very significant increases in the percentage of older people over coming years. As a result we know that more of the same won’t do, and we have a duty to plan our services now for the future population needs.

“The Community Medicine & Rehabilitation Redesign Programme focuses on supporting people to live well and as independently as possible within their own homes. Where supportive health services are required, we aim to deliver these as close to home as possible, and over the last two years we have actively developed or improved existing services available in Angus, with many further improvements planned. For example palliative day care is now delivered in each of the three localities of Angus, as patients told us the journey to Stracathro could be exhausting. Dementia assessment and support services are being developed on the same locality basis.

“A huge focus of the Community Medicine & Rehabilitation Redesign Programme is in supporting people to live well, and for those with a long term condition that can be a challenge. We have a range of developments in place to support this, ranging from disease specific education programmes, such as Tayside Diabetes Education Programme, to generic courses open to anyone living with a long term condition. We have also supported the development of a range of patient-led support groups, which play an increasingly significant role in helping people live well day to day with their long term condition.

“Over the coming years working in partnership will become increasingly important, and there are a number of exciting opportunities ahead for NHS Tayside, working in partnership with all clinicians, public, voluntary sector and local authority. We see the clinical leadership of all our clinicians as key to delivering on the challenges that lie ahead.”

Dr Alastair Noble, an active committee member on the Scottish Association of Community Hospitals, who is providing some external clinical advice to the Angus Community Medicine & Rehabilitation redesign Programme has commended Angus on its current services and outcomes of care for local residents, and looks forward to working with Angus Community Health Partnership over the coming year to consider such outcome data on a locality by locality basis to support further improvements within and across Angus.