NHS Highland admits it is struggling to recruit staff for Invergordon and Alness GP practice amid calls for investigation

The practice is based at the Robertson Health Center in Alness.

A full investigation into the running of a struggling GP practice in Ross-shire is needed amid growing concerns over the treatment of patients.

It’s the call from a mayoral candidate and local Invergordon figure who earlier this week lambasted the treatment his ailing father received.

NHS Highland took over management of Alness and Invergordon Medical Group in February, following the resignation of three GP partners last year.

Concerns resurfaced this week when Invergordon strongman Luke Stoltman took to social media to denounce the service provided to his father who he said has been waiting five years for treatment for his sciatica.

Maxine Morley-Smith, currently standing for re-election in Cromarty Firth, said it was time to take a closer look at how the practice had deteriorated.

“We’ve been dealing with practice issues for a while, in fact it’s something we’ve been trying to tackle for many years,” she said.

Maxine Morley-Smith.
Maxine Morley-Smith.

“I met the local MSP and Minister of Health Maree Todd about this and emailed him about what was going on.

“The problem was that the NHS had to withdraw the contract and staff the practice while at the same time I was liaising with a patient in the practice whose husband was receiving very poor treatment.

“Whatever happened, I, and I think the community as well, want to see the most thorough investigation possible to find out how the practice got to the state it is in now.”

Mr. Stoltman wants a public apology as well as an investigation after, he said, so many patients were abandoned.

“Something has to be done,” he said.

“At the bare minimum, to get things done, I would expect a public apology, to restore faith.

Luke Stoltman.
Luke Stoltman.

“This should have been settled many years ago. If we get that apology it starts something new like a reset, a new cycle, they recognize that things have gone wrong, they haven’t done their due diligence.

Others on social media called for a full public inquiry.

Caithness, Sutherland and Ross MSP Maree Todd, who is also the Scottish Government’s Minister for Public Health, said: ‘As a local MSP, I am committed to working constructively with NHS Highland to find a solution to the issues facing are confronted by the medical practices Alness and Invergordon.

MSP Tide Todd.
MSP Tide Todd.

“I have requested a meeting with the general manager to discuss this further.”

Ms Smith earlier shared a statement online she received from NHS Highland chief executive Pam Dudek, in which the health board boss said it was ‘likely the practice has been in decline for a long time “.

She added: “We are gathering additional resources in an effort to get to the right place, but the task is big and it will take time.

“That said, we absolutely have an obligation and are committed to improving service for the 14,000 residents of Alness and Invergordon.

“Our Head of Primary Care has recently contacted the Alness Community Council and has agreed to provide regular updates and attend all local meetings; the same will be offered to the Invergordon Community Council.

“We have undertaken a detailed review of the current state and our action plan has been designed around this.

“On March 1, we launched a procurement process to seek a new long-term supplier for the firm.

“After the initial expression of interest phase, we received several responses from interested parties and they will now be invited to submit a full business case.

The practice also has a base at Invergordon Community Hospital.
The practice also has a base at Invergordon Community Hospital.

“However, this process is likely to run until August/September, and we will maintain our commitment to a support program to correct issues that have been flawed within the practice for many years and ensure that a service sure is in place.”

Lack of availability of GPs, she said, is proving to be the biggest barrier to improvement, which she said was common across the country.

Related Article: NHS Highland to take over medical practice management from Alness and Invergordon

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