Keep door open for rural GP surgery return, urges MSP

A FUTURE restoration of the GP surgery at Johnstonebridge should not be ruled out. 

That was the call from Dumfriesshire MSP Oliver Mundell as he expressed deep disappointment at latest moves by health officials to permanently close the valued rural health facility.

Dumfries and Galloway Health and Social Care Partnership (DGHSCP) this week confirmed proposals to formally withdraw GP, practice nurse and dispensing services from Johnstonebridge.


The plan is due to go before DGHSCP's integration joint-board on Wednesday January 30.


Fears have grown for the surgery since DGHSCP took on responsibility for the patients at Moffat's Church Place Surgery in March last year.


It followed husband and wife GPs Rory and Shona Gillies giving up general practice in the town from where they also looked after Johnstonebridge surgery.


Staff shortages meant the long-established village facility has remained virtually mothballed since last year with Church Street and Johnstonebridge patients absorbed into Moffat's remaining High Street surgery.


The latest report proposes Johnstonebridge patients register with other practices and suggests the greater use of advance nurse practitioners to support GPs.


Oliver Mundell as MSP and his father David as MP last year raised constituents' concerns about controversial NHS changes to Upper Annandale healthcare services and also organised a patient survey.


Said Oliver: "Johnstonebridge serves a large rural area with many older residents and only limited public transport options. 


"Having to travel up to ten or more miles to a neighbouring surgery can cause real hardship for some people.


"Whilst GP shortages and other factors are a major concern just now that hopefully will not always be the case. I'd like to see the option retained to reopen the surgery.


"I can well understand why some constituents fear the Johnstonebridge service is being sacrificed for the long-term in an opportunist way on the back of shorter-term recruitment issues."