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Leuchars GP to leave - Services being run down, less doctors

Patients at the Leuchars and Balmullo surgeries in Scotland are to lose their GP after 21 years. Dr Bryan Johnston is to leave the surgeries at the end of March, two months before the Leuchars practice loses its dispensing rights to the new village pharmacy.

Services at the Leuchars practice such as physiotherapy and practice nurse clinics have already started to wind down. According to Dr Johnston, it is likely that the Leuchars practice will become a skeleton operation, offering very limited services, and staff numbers will be cut. The number of doctors in the practice has gone from 2.75 full time equivalents to 2 doctors.


During his 21 years at the practices, Dr Johnston and partners have built up the practice from little more than an "old shed" with a list of 960 patients to a thriving, modern practice with 3,500 patients. He says his decision to leave is entirely down to the impact of the new village pharmacy on the practice and its patients, some of whom will find it difficult to travel either to the Balmullo surgery or to the village pharmacy. He says: "I simply didn't have it in me to see the service I had worked so hard to build up picked apart." He added that the Area Health Board's disregard for patient choice had also influenced his decision to go. He leaves to take up a post in a practice in Melbourne, Australia, and will be replaced by Dr John Kennedy, from Inverness.


Paying tribute to the efforts of local patients, who have formed the Save Our Dispensing Surgeries lobby group, Dr Johnston said: "The SODS patients have been very vociferous and effective in getting changes to the regulations. They have been very supportive and deserve better."


SODS patients have fought hard against the arrival of the pharmacy in Leuchars and they have welcomed the decision by the Area Health Board to retain GP dispensing at the Balmullo Surgery.

Patients sent the chairman of the Area Health Board a letter just prior to the hearing on Balmullo, which stressed in some considerable detail the importance of continuing GP dispensing for Balmullo patients and those in other communities who also use this surgery. Writing on their website, SODS campaigners say that the decision will "relieve Balmullo surgery patients who faced having to travel for prescribed medication". They add that it goes some way to restoring a measure of confidence in the Board's willingness to accept public opinion as a vital and mandatory factor when decisions are made with regard to new pharmacy applications.


Patients of the surgeries at Leuchars and Balmullo attended various meetings in the run-up to the decision on the local pharmacy application. At these meetings patients made clear that they want to meet and discuss all such applications which can affect their everyday community life.  


Despite the positive outcome at Balmullo, patients say that there is much still to be done to improve the process of pharmacy applications in rural areas. "The wholly undemocratic nature of current legislation has thwarted all attempts to bring some common sense and fair play into the process.  Current thinking in the Scottish Executive with regard to new legislation due out very shortly is still out of line in addressing public concerns."


Commenting on the Scottish government's position on dispensing doctors, DDA Board member, Dr Hal Maxwell said: "Regrettably, government policy in Scotland is that all patients have access to pharmacy." Dr Johnston added: "There is no change in Government sympathies towards dispensing doctors. Its position is that doctors should provide GMS without using their dispensing income but the reality is that most dispensing practices use their dispensing income to provide and improve the services they offer patients."


We asked NHS Fife for comment but they declined.


source: Dispensing Doctors' Association,

17th of January 2011

By Ailsa Colquhoun

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Leuchars is located on the east coast of Scotland in Fife, near St Andrews.

St Andrews University is just 6 miles from Leuchars.

Leuchars has good bus and rail links. The railway car park has recently been upgraded and accommodates more parking spaces. A covered walkway is also in situ. There are busses every 15 minutes to Dundee and St Andrews.

A ten-minute drive leads to Tentsmuir Forest and Kinshaldy Beach beyond. Enjoy miles of clean, sandy beaches.

Dundee and St Andrews are within easy commuting distance.

Dundee, Scotlands 4th largest city offers Cinemas, a leisure centre, Ice rink, Repertory Theatre, and for the ladies shops galore.

Nearby St Andrews has a leisure centre, Byre Theatre and Cinema.

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