A Borders GP surgery has been closed with next to no prior warning.
Kelso Medical Group Practice only announced it would be closing its Town Yetholm surgery by pinning a letter to the front door of the Deanfield Place building last week.
Patients in Yetholm now face a 16-mile round trip to Kelso’s Inch Road to health centre for doctors’ appointment.
The closure, said to be due to a drop in demand, comes over a decade after health bosses last proposed shutting the Yetholm surgery.
Back in 2008, however, they were forced to think again by a public backlash led by the village’s community council.
This time round, though, the community council wasn’t given the chance to launch any such campaign to save the surgery as it was taken unawares.
Its chairperson, Susan Stewart, said: “Yetholm Community Council was only informed in writing two days before the closure by the practice that this was going to happen.
“There was no consultation or discussion about it, and it has come as quite a surprise to the community as a whole.
“We feel that the practice should have, at the very least, given us a chance to comment and meet with them to discuss their plans before the surgery was closed.
“This opportunity has been denied us, and we will be writing to NHS Borders and the practice to ask why there was no prior warning of this closure.”
Kelso councillors Simon Mountford and Euan Robson are also unimpressed by the abruptness with which the surgery was shut down.
Mr Mountford said: “I appreciate that circumstances have, to some extent, changed since 2008, when Kelso Medical Group Practice last tried to close Yetholm surgery.
“However, the surgery is a vital local facility, given that Yetholm has an above-average proportion of elderly people.
“It is, therefore, totally unacceptable that there has been absolutely no consultation with the local community before this decision was taken.
“I will be writing to Kelso Medical Group Practice to invite them to meet the community council to explain this step and what actions they propose to mitigate the serious impact it will have on residents.”
Mr Robson echoed those sentiments, saying: “The loss of the surgery in Yetholm will be a setback for the local community, but patient numbers have dropped quite significantly.
“I fully appreciate the concerns of Kelso Medical Group Practice, especially as doctors are under such pressure, with two vacancies and an increasing workload.
“I do feel that the health board could have been more helpful in promoting a wider and more meaningful consultation, though.
“Also, what precisely is the health board doing generally to assist in GP recruitment?
“My main concern is, however, that the needs of the patients who are still using the surgery are fully met.
“Although I would prefer that the surgery remains open, if it has to close I will be asking the practice manager to clarify whether assessments have taken place to ensure issues such as mobility, chronic conditions and mothers and toddlers’ needs will be fully addressed.”
A spokesperson for NHS Borders said: “The decision on the need to close the Yetholm branch surgery was made by Kelso Medical Group Practice recognising the changing demand on the practice and relative activity in Yetholm and at the main health centre in Kelso.
“NHS Borders was notified of its intention to close in line with the practice’s contract with us and agreed with the proposal as an appropriate response to the overall needs of the practice population.”