Health chief unveils plans to abandon clinics

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NHS BORDERS is considering closing the specialist consultant clinics it holds throughout the region.

Instead, if plans come to fruition, these sessions will all take place at the Borders General Hospital.

The scenario was confirmed this week by the health authority’s chief executive, Calum Campbell, after TheSouthern received a tip-off that the so-called peripheral clinics were under review.

“To save money, they are planning to stop the consultants travelling to Peebles, Hawick, Eyemouth etc, which means all the patients, including the elderly, will have to travel to the BGH,” said our source. “NHS Borders is trying to keep it quiet to avoid the public outrage.”

In response, Mr Campbell told us: “As part of the ongoing review of all our services, we are looking at how we can maximise the use of our clinicians’ time.”

“Many of our consultants and clinic staff spend a significant proportion of their time travelling to peripheral clinics around the Borders.

“Many of these clinics are under-utilised and some have very high levels of patients failing to attend for their appointments. This obviously means clinicians are wasting time which could be spent seeing patients elsewhere.

“It is also the case that many patients, having seen the consultant in a peripheral clinic, will still have to travel to the BGH for the diagnostic tests they require.

“The one-stop shop approach we can offer at the BGH will mean patients have fewer appointments and, hopefully, a faster diagnosis and treatment.

“The review aims to identify those clinics to maximise the use of clinical time and reduce duplication for patients. By working more efficiently, we can improve the quality of our services and ensure we can sustain them into the future.”

Asked about the timescale of the possible changes, a spokesperson for NHS Borders said: “The review is at its very early stages at the moment. We are still looking at utilisation figures so no options have been developed yet.”

Meanwhile, in answer to a written question from Labour MSP Mary Fee (West of Scotland), Michael Matheson, Scotland’s public health minister, revealed last week that NHS Borders had spent £19.9million on prescriptions in 2010/11. He also confirmed the local health board had received £1.33milion from the Scottish Government in the current financial year to cover the withdrawal of presciption charges.

Carol Gillie, director of finance with NHS Borders commented: “The introduction of free prescriptions for all has not impacted on NHS Boards’ finances as the cost has been covered by the Scottish Government...to compensate for the loss of income.”