The principle of creating community hubs in modern premises still need approval from the Scottish Government – but health professionals across Forth Valley say the changes will make GPs services “fit for the future”.
Dr David Herron, who is the GP Clinical Lead for the Falkirk Health and Social Care Partnership, urged members of the Integrated Joint Board, which oversees health and social care to support the plan and “push it forward as fast as possible”.
He said: “If you went out and asked the people of Falkirk at the moment what is the number one priority for health care, I think a lot of them would say it’s the ability to see a healthcare professional at a GP practice when they feel ill.
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“There’s a lot of factors that make it difficult to provide the capacity that we need for that but one of them very much is accommodation.
“We are struggling and practices are unable to provide as much clinical contact as they would like to, partly because of accommodation issues – so lets get rid of this as a reason for not being able to deliver that.
“Hopefully, we can support and push this plan forward as fast as possible.”
The Forth Valley Primary Care Premises Programme aims to improve the accommodation, services and facilities in GP surgeries across the area over the next five years, with a major programme of investment.
The plan is not just to replace existing facilities – they will also redesign the way GP services are delivered, building on work that is already happening locally.
The IJB approved the plan, which was also endorsed by NHS Forth Valley health board recently.
But members urged those behind the plan to keep the public well informed and engaged to persuade them that such a major change would be beneficial for everyone.
Councillor Fiona Collie said: “Some of the really positive changes – like mental health workers and community link workers – have not necessarily been understood by the public and patients about what the different options are and why they are not seeing their GP.”
“This is a really good opportunity to really work with the community at the earliest stage to say this is what we’re looking at and this is why we’re doing it – what do you think and what would you like to see?”
Kathie O’Neill said that there had been lots of consultation with various groups to get to this stage, including GPs and patient representatives but at the moment “it was all quite conceptual”.
She promised that GP practice populations would be consulted when there is more detail about individual sites.
“That will be more meaningful because we’ll be talking about their practice and their community, rather than a kind of broad conceptual thing about hubs and spokes,” she said.
The primary care premises programme will tie in closely with the masterplan to develop Falkirk Community Hospital as a modern hub with various health services.