Patients may have to travel to Melrose to see a doctor

Newtown St Boswells Health Centre in fear of closure. Elaine Thornton-Nicol of SNP outside the Health Centre.
Newtown St Boswells Health Centre in fear of closure. Elaine Thornton-Nicol of SNP outside the Health Centre.

Selkirkshire councillor Elaine Thornton-Nicol has expressed her concerns over plans to pull out of Newtown St Boswells’ only medical practice from the end of next year.

A joint statement made last week by Eildon Medical Practice and NHS Borders revealed that the facility’s partners were looking into withdrawing from the building following “partnership changes” – a move which could force its patients to travel the five miles to Melrose in order to see a doctor.

The statement read: “Due to partnership changes, the partners of the Eildon Medical Practice have notified NHS Borders of their intention to withdraw from owning the premises in Newtown St Boswells from the end of 2019.

“In light of these changes partners will be working with NHS Borders to consider the options for the future provision of primary care services to the patients registered with the Eildon Practice, in consultation with patients and the wider community.

“As a result NHS Borders Board members have agreed to pause the planned redevelopment of the Melrose Health Centre building whilst this process takes place.”

Mrs Thornton-Nicol, who is registered with the practice, said she would be campaigning to keep it open.

She told us: “I am very alarmed at the news release from NHS Borders last Friday.

“This announcement has, rightly, caused concern among the many patients of the practice, especially since some reports are saying that the practice is actually closing.

“NHS Borders have a duty of care for the residents and patients of Newtown and St Boswells. In my view, that means that NHS Borders must provide adequate medical facilities within the community and not five miles away in Melrose ... particularly since there is inadequate public transport, and elderly or infirm patients may find that to be an impossible journey.

“I could understand if the existing practice partners are vacating the premises and a new doctors’ organisation takes over. Whilst such a change would be disturbing, it would not be as bad as the practice closing.

“I have arranged to speak to the practice this week and have requested an urgent meeting with Dr Cliff Sharp, medical director, NHS Borders, to discuss the reasons behind the decision and his thoughts on the way forward to retain a practice in Newtown.

“We are fortunate to have Eildon Pharmacy supporting the practice, and on Monday, John McDougall, pharmacist, reassured me that he and his team would continue to provide services no matter the outcome, and he’s even prepared to expand and redistribute them to suit the needs of patients.”

Mrs Thornton-Nicol added: “As a patient of Eildon Medical Practice myself, I will be pushing hard to get the best outcome for us all.

“I think it is vital that we retain a doctor’s service in our community. I hope that NHS Borders agree ... if not I will do everything I can to make them see sense.”