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The Yellow Practice at Sighthill Health Centre is closing on 30 June following the retirement of its senior (and only) partner, Dr Helga Rhein.

But health officials are confident that there is sufficient room for the practice’s 1700 patients to be cared for by the two other practices in the same building and in others nearby.

Michelle Miller, Interim Chief Officer of Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership said: “Plans have been agreed for the provision of GP services for patients currently registered at a single-handed Edinburgh practice, which is to close.

“The practice is one of three at the Sighthill Health Centre, where a total of 13,900 patients are registered. The majority of the 1,700 patients registered at the affected practice are being allocated to the two remaining practices in the Sighthill Health Centre, and to the Wester Hailes Medical Practice.

“A small number of patients will be allocated to other established GP practices in the area, according to proximity of the practice to their home. The Health and Social Care Partnership will be writing to the practices asking them to ensure patients are informed. Our priority is to ensure every patient continues to receive safe, effective care, and we are working with all practices involved to ensure a smooth transition of services and records.”

This matter was first brought to our attention by Councillor Ashley Graczyk who highlighted the matter by lodging a motion for tomorrow’s full council meeting.

Since last week, she has withdrawn that motion in light of a response which she received from the Edinburgh Integration Joint Board.  This is the partnership between the council and NHS Lothian which is responsible for providing health and social care in the city and which is chaired by Labour Councillor Ricky Henderson.

Councillor Graczyk who represents Sighthill/Gorgie explained to The Edinburgh Reporter that the current GP partner Dr Helga Rhein retired on 1 April 2018 meaning that the medical practice is currently being run by a locum doctor.

According to Cllr Graczyk’s Holyrood college Miles Briggs MSP the practice will close on 30 June because they have not been able to recruit a new GP.

That is correct, but The Edinburgh Reporter has been assured that it was a decided move on the part of the retiring GP that led to this. Dr Rhein had the option to recruit a successor but decided that it would be better for her patients if the new practice was not a single-handed practice as hers was.

This type of business arrangement is now discouraged by the Edinburgh Health and Social Care Partnership. Single-handed practices are often unable to have a multi-disciplinary team with staff members such as advanced nurse practitioners which is fast becoming the new preferred model.

Owing to the well documented shortage in GP numbers, it is regarded by EHSCP as a better format. If a single-handed practice GP goes on holiday there is an immediate need for a locum. Given the shortage in GP numbers that is not always possible or easy. The new Scottish GMS (GP) contract offers advantages of scale to larger practices which are the preferred models.

Having reflected on the situation at her own practice, we are advised that Dr Rhein believed it would be better for her patient list (the smallest practice in Edinburgh) to be distributed across other GP practices, two of which are in the same building as hers, the Yellow Practice, is.

COUNCILLOR WITHDRAWS MOTION

Councillor Graczyk said : “I will be withdrawing my ‘Closure of Sighthill Health Centre’ motion at the next Full Council because it appears that the Integration Joint Board are finally addressing the concerns of my constituents, and will implement the initial plans for future provisions of GP care for patients currently registered with Dr Rhein’s Medical Practice at Sighthill Health Centre.

“I will also be looking for guarantees and keeping the pressure on to ensure that what the Integration Joint Board have stated, will be implemented, because my constituents’ concerns and health are important to me.”

1450 patients will be allocated to the other two practices in Sighthill Health Centre and Wester Hailes Medical Practice. Smaller numbers will be transferred to Slateford Medical Practice.

The HSCP Partnership says it is working with the two Sighthill practices to ensure they have the capacity and support required to allow the transition to take place smoothly.

Patients of the Yellow Practice will receive letters in the middle of May or earlier explaining the situation and allocating them a new practice. It is open to individuals to register with any practice which suits them. The letter will explain how to do that and give them a contact telephone number and email address for further information.