Rural corrosion

I would like to raise your awareness of the closure of the Health Practice in Gardenstown last Friday – a closure claimed by NHS Grampian as “temporary”.

This is a most alarming development as patients now have to travel to Banff for any treatment and pharmacy needs which have been available in the village.

Given that the village has a high proportion of elderly residents who might well experience difficulties making the 20-mile round trip to Banff (particularly in winter) by public transport and then having to walk to the Banff Health Centre, this is an appalling decision compounded by the fact that, last Monday, there were three doctors (out of a possible four) all working in Banff – this seems to rub salt into the wound.

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It is possible these difficulties will put GPs and the district nursing team under increasing pressure to cover patients 
unable to attend surgery in Banff.

With the relentless march toward centralisation and the corrosion of rural life – there is no post office and other amenities have gradually been lost – we remain pessimistic that NHS Grampian will change its mind, possibly claiming that patients experience no problems travelling to Banff though it would be interesting to find out how they collect this data.

The surgery was already reduced to a half-day service, operating only on weekday mornings, and it now looks as if Gardenstown residents will have no other option but to receive treatment at whatever is left of a Banff/Gamrie practice as it is unlikely that they will be accepted by the existing Deveron and Macduff practices, neither of which is obliged to accept patients outwith their areas.

The secrecy surrounding the announcement is worrying. A letter advising villagers of the closure only dropped through the letterboxes on Wednesday despite being dated 27 August, and staff were ordered not to tell patients seen on the morning of Friday, 28th.

The only notice on the day of closure was a simple sheet of paper stuck to the door of the surgery.

The comment by a spokeswoman that “some patients from Gardenstown already choose to be seen in Banff” seems indicative of the direction in which NHS Grampian is already travelling.

Gareth John

Harbour Road

Gardenstown, Aberdeenshire