East Lothian GPs: Man with golf ball-sized lump who waited a year to see GP calls for Riverside to close

Despite not answering the phone, the waiting room at Riverside Medical Practice was empty when the man finally obtained an appointment
Despite not answering the phone, the waiting room at Riverside Medical Practice was empty when the man finally obtained an appointment

A furious patient who waited 18 months to see a GP for a lump the size of a golf ball has called for a beleaguered East Lothian medical practice to be shut down.

After suffering with the unexplained lump in his thigh and repeatedly calling up to 70 times, the 44-year-old said he was prescribed antibiotics by a nurse several times before he was finally able to see a GP for the problem. He was so frustrated that he couldn’t talk to a GP to get checked in person he thought about going private. But he couldn’t see a specialist without a referral from a doctor.

He finally saw a doctor this month and was prescribed treatments which he said are helping. But he’s angry that he had to struggle for more than a year to get seen by a doctor. He said the practice has been “broken” since it merged with Eskbridge, forming the largest practice in Lothians with 19,000 patients.

Riverside Medical Practice said it is making changes but it takes time

He told the Evening News: “I had a lump for months and my pharmacist was horrified that I’d had several rounds of antibiotics without every speaking to a GP. It was unbelievable. The practice is rammed with people trying to get appointments yet nobody was in the waiting room the day I finally saw a doctor last week.”

He added: “I’ve phoned over 70 times and not got through. It took 18 months before I finally got an appointment.”

The man said: “Since 2018 they have been saying they are doing all they can. But I can’t see changes. It’s bleak. People are just resigned to the fact that they have to turn up at A&E. It’s frustrating they keep saying the phone system is operated by the health board or put problems down to the pandemic.

“I believe the place needs to be shut down. They must start from scratch. There’s no consistency of care. Most GPs work very little hours every week. I think questions need to be asked again about where the budget is being spent.”

Local MSP Colin Beattie called out the practice earlier this month saying there is ‘no excuses’ for delays in bringing improvements. An independent review set out a raft of recommendations to tackle problems including changing the phone system and allowing patients to book non-emergency appointments online.

The practice has four partners and sixteen GPs in total. Names of personnel previously available on their website have been removed. Mr Baxter said that he is one of scores of patients who have submitted complaints and claims the practice has blocked him and others on social media for doing so.

He said: “When I finally saw a GP they told me to stop inciting complaints. Many have complained and been blocked on social media platforms by the practice. There’s a culture at the top of not responding effectively to constructive criticism.”

The practice is due to have their first meeting at the end of November with the local health and social care partnership, three months after the publication of the independent review. A spokesperson said: “Our job as experienced healthcare professionals is to implement the report recommendations in a way which prioritizes the care and safety of our patients, in a way which is sustainable for our team. We understand that patients are eager to see changes – and that is sadly also the case for patients at many other Practices across Scotland, who are beginning to face similar pressures.

“The review team’s report made clear that the practice is fully and properly utilizing the resources allocated to it, in a way which is aligned with expectations: we have a comparable number of clinicians and provide a comparable number of appointments to other Practices. We remain committed to making the changes we can – and to continuing to do the best job possible for our patients, with the resources available to us. NHS Lothian on those recommendations which require their input.

“We look forward to discussing our progress with the review team three and six months after publication of their report, as agreed in the review’s scope – and will be publishing a further update on our month 2 progress shortly. As before, this will be made available to patients and stakeholders via our website, email and waiting room.”

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