Demand growing for GP service in Letham

LETHAM residents are being encouraged to speak out about problems they have accessing a doctor to strengthen the local community council’s call for G.P. facilities at Jubilee Court (writes Janet Thomson).

For years there have been calls for a G.P. service in the village to save residents, many of them elderly or young mums with children, travelling by bus to Forfar, Friockheim or Arbroath for a doctor’s appointment.

Problems with public transport, and last year’s horrendous road conditions during the winter months, only exacerbate the problem for patients.

Now members of Letham and District Community Council are calling out to local residents to put their weight behind their call for a solution to the problem.

Secretary Isobel Sword urged them to come forward to give instances of problems they have experienced in the past in the hope of putting pressure on NHS Tayside to agree to some form of G.P. provision.

The community council held an open meeting last Monday evening in Letham Primary School which was extremely well attended by many very enthusiastic residents.

The council gave a presentation highlighting the background to the issues, statistical information regarding the neighbourhood and asking for support from the community as a whole to prepare evidence to present to Tayside Health Board in support of siting G.P. services in the village.

They stressed access to routine G.P. services is needed for such things as blood tests and consultation with a doctor regarding ongoing conditions.

They agreed that, whilst the nurse-led unit and Letham pharmacy services are “wonderful”, there needs to be doctor consultation at the heart of the service and it is access to doctor consultation that is difficult for many Letham residents.

After the meeting Isobel Sword, secretary of the community council said: “As far as we can see there are suitable premises at Jubilee Court. We hope the whole community will now get behind our call; we need to keep the pressure up.

“We are asking people to give examples of their difficulties in accessing G.P. services. At the moment a few go to Arbroath, a lot go to Forfar practices and quite a lot go to Friockheim.

“There are problems for those who have to rely on buses. We have a large elderly population, as well as young mums with children, who have to time things to catch a bus to get an appointment. It can take you either a whole morning or a whole afternoon.

“We have been given an example of somebody who had an appointment in Friockheim - fine - but as happens the doctor was running behind. It got to the stage the patient had to leave and lose the appointment in order to catch a bus as there wouldn’t be another bus for a long time.

“We need to put together as much evidence as possible to put to NHS Tayside.”

As a result the community council is gathering in written evidence in the form of individual letters detailing difficulties in accessing G.P. services.

Letters from Letham residents have to be returned by May 6 to the Hamelt, the Spar and the bakery in the village.

The community council has also arranged another public meeting which will be held on Wednesday, May 11 in the village hall, starting at 7.30 pm.

They have invited a representative from the Angus Community Health Partnership to attend.

Isobel continued: “At this stage we are simply putting pressure on the NHS and Angus Community Health Partnership to recognise the need for a G.P. in Letham.”

She referred to the anomaly of Friockheim, which is a lot smaller than Letham, having G.P. provision and revealed plans for a similar provision in Letham have been within touching distance in the past.

She continued: “The Angus CHP’s own statistics for the Letham neighbourhood area recognised the population to serve the new pharmacy, for license purposes, was 3,000 and rising. The Friockheim population is nowhere like that.

“A door to door survey has been done before with 98% recognising the need for a G.P.

“At that time there were no premises, out of hours cover was difficult and we didn’t have the backing of other practices round about. We did identity a G.P. willing to come but he withdrew.

“All those issues don’t apply now; out of hours is with NHS 24, money has been spent on premises, although perhaps there might be need for a little bit more to adapt two properly created treatment rooms used by the nurse-led unit, and G.P, surgeries in the area are supportive.”

After last Monday’s meeting the community council also agreed to form a sub group to take forward the campaign to make G.P. services accessible.