The full reinstatement of the GP out-of-hours service at the Vale of Leven Hospital will begin to be phased in from January, the health board has confirmed.
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde say the new arrangement has been made possible following a number of positive discussions with local GPs who will staff the service alongside the hospital’s integrated care GP team (ICGP).
In February, temporary measures were put into place by NHSGGC restricting hours of operation to between 11pm and 8am seven days a week to make the service “sustainable”
The announcement also follows years of uncertainty over the future of the service after plans were mooted to move it to weekends only after being dogged with closures.
Hospitalwatch chair Jim Moohan described it as “the best news we’ve had in years”, saying: “I’m absolutely delighted.
“It will end a lot of uncertainty and concern for communities across the area.”
Bosses say the first phase of the expansion will begin with the reintroduction of the evening service between 6pm and 11pm from Mondays to Thursdays.
This is in addition to the continuation of the current overnight provision, which is provided seven days a week between 11pm and 8am.
Health chiefs say plans are underway to provide the service for the full out-of-hours period from the end of March, providing appropriate staffing measures can be put in place.
The fully reinstated service will cover evenings, overnight and weekends.
Susan Manion, interim chief officer for GP out-of-hours services, commended local GPs for their positive response to rota discussions.
She said: “We know how important the GP out-of-hours service is to the local community and we are extremely thankful to both the integrated care team at the Vale, who are able to deliver excellent quality care across a range of services, and our local GP leaders who have been working hard to establish arrangements with GPs in the area.
“Their support means we’re in position to engage with local GPs to come and join the service and to seek to ensure we have a full, robust and sustainable long-term proposition for GP out-of-hours.”
She added that residents should always call NHS24 on 111 to make an appointment.
Tireless campaigner Mr Moohan said: “The GP rota system was first suggested at a public meeting a couple of years ago and I’m delighted it’s now coming to fruition.
“This is a massive achievement when you think of the fear and concern of people who have had to travel to Paisley for treatment because their local hospital service has been closed.
“The GP rota will protect our interests and fill in all the gaps. This news is really fantastic.”
The health board say the arrangement reached with GPs and the acute team, alongside an appointment only system and digital and telephone appointments, has been crucial in securing a sustainable long-term model for the service.
News of the move broke at a full West Dunbartonshire Council meeting on Wednesday.
During the online meeting, SNP council leader Jonathan McColl informed members he had received a message confirming plans were in place to reinstate the service by the end of March.
It followed a motion being brought by Labour councillor John Mooney calling on cross-party commitment to the Alexandria hospital and opposing any changes in the status or location of dementia wards Fruin and Katrine. This followed concerns earlier in the month that the wards could be temporarily shut do to a lack of locum cover.
Councillor McColl, who tabled an amendment to the motion, said: “I’m very pleased to have had an update during this evening’s meeting from our health and social care partnership (HSCP) chief officer that there are now plans in place for full restoration of GP out-of-hours services by the end of March.”
Following a lengthy debate, the majority of members agreed to Councillor McColl’s amendment.