Jedburgh councillors are scathing over the town’s residents being barred from accessing inpatient care at Hawick Community Hospital.
Those attending the recent meeting of Scottish Borders Council Cheviot Area Committee, which was held in Jedburgh, heard of the growing anger about the town’s residents being prevented from accessing inpatient beds at Hawick Community Hospital due to contractual agreements with GPs.
All three of Jedburgh’s Scottish Borders councillors are also furious and demanding action.
Councillor Jim Brown fumed: “There is a serious equality issue here which has resulted in the citizens of my town being treated as second class – this must be resolved quickly and permanently.
“It must result in contracts issued between NHS Borders and GPs ensuring that all citizens are treated equally.”
Asked to explain, Sheena MacDonald, NHS Borders medical director, told The Southern this week that inpatient medical cover is not part of core GP services.
“GPs provide medical cover to community hospitals on a supplementary, opt-in contracted basis, and are under no long-term obligation to provide the service beyond their stated limitations,” she explained.
“Since early 2014 only patients registered with a Hawick or Newcastleton GP have been admitted to inpatient beds in Hawick.
“This agreement was reached necessarily in order to retain medical cover for inpatient services at Hawick Community Hospital.”
Dr MacDonald added that agreement was reached with Kelso GPs to provide care for Jedburgh residents (including all patients registered with a Jedburgh GP) at Kelso Community Hospital.
Jedburgh residents with ongoing inpatient care needs can also be treated within Borders General Hospital, at Knoll Community Hospital in Duns or Haylodge Community Hospital in Peebles. NHS Borders says it has now has commenced an appraisal process to identify the preferred model for the future provision of inpatient care in community hospitals.
But Councillor Brown says prior to the decision in 2006 to close Jedburgh Community Hospital, the town’s residents were told they had no reason to worry because local in-care facilities would be nearby, in a new facility being built in Hawick, only 10 miles away.
“I would like to make it clear I feel the GPs and staff at Jedburgh Health Centre do a fantastic job and those facilities are a big improvement on what we had before.
“But since then, gradually, the promised health care facilities for Jedburgh have been eroded and now we have reached the stage when GPs, who have their salaries paid by the NHS and work in another town, are telling our health service they are only prepared to treat people of a certain ilk within those NHS-owned facilities.”
Calling the situation absolutely unacceptable, Mr Brown has now written to local MSPs and the Scottish Government.
His fellow Jedburgh councillor, Rory Stewart, told us: “It’s a disgrace that the people of Jedburgh are being treated with this contempt.”
Calling the situation a “disgrace” and “morally wrong”, Councillor Sandy Scott told The Southern: “Doctors are held in high esteem in the community, and should not be acting in this way.
“I appreciate it’s probably not quite as simple as this, but to myself, not to treat a sick Jedburgh patient in the Hawick hospital is simply not on and goes against everything I believe in, and should be sorted as soon as possible.”