A COUNCILLOR has called for reassurance over a lack of locums to fill GP service gaps.

Labour councillor for the West Fife and coastal villages, Graeme Downie, says medical substitute staff is falling short and is asking for more detail on the multi-discipline teams that the NHS say will provide care without the need to see a doctor.

Following a Freedom of Information request, Cllr Downie obtained figures that showed an average of four medical locums covering 25 sessions each month since January 2021. With each session intended to last four hours and 10 minutes, that means approximately just 13 days of additional GP cover across the Kingdom being provided by locum GPs.

Cllr Downie said: “In just the last month, NHS Fife have posted four warnings on their Facebook page about reduced services at GP surgeries across the Kingdom.

“We are told there is a shortage of GPs nationwide and clearly there are not enough locum doctors to fill the gaps either.”

“At Valleyfield practice, in my own ward, which has had extensive problems over recent years, patients were reassured in a letter on 1 July that a multi-disciplinary team is being deployed to maintain service levels.

“I trust that could be the case but people need to know what the composition of this team might be and that NHS Fife have the staff to fill them. Only then can people and communities feel properly assured.”

In response to Cllr Downie's concerns, associate medical director for the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, Dr Helen Hellewell, said: "We are committed to improving the local healthcare provision available to patients in Valleyfield. Earlier this month, we met with representatives from High Valleyfield, Low Valleyfield, Culross and Torryburn, and Newmills community councils to discuss the current position and the actions being taken.

"It was acknowledged by all parties at the meeting that finding an immediate resolution to the GP recruitment issues is unlikely, however, reassurance was offered that Fife Health and Social Care Partnership and NHS Fife remain committed to identifying suitable candidates that could be appointed to take up permanent GP roles in the practice. This search is not limited just to Scotland, with the net being cast beyond the country’s borders to find suitably qualified and experienced medical staff."

Dr Hellewell added: "Following the meeting, we have also written to all patients at the practice to advise them of a number of actions taken to ensure patients have access to services.

"This includes changes to the appointment system, arrangements for ordering repeat prescriptions, enhancements to the phone system and strengthening of the multi-disciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including physiotherapists, mental health nurses and pharmacists who are supporting the remaining GP, advanced nurse practitioner and locum medical staff.

"These clinicians are highly-trained, experienced healthcare professionals who will provide patients with a very high standard of care, often without the need to see or speak to a GP."