Home   News   Article

EXCLUSIVE: Save Our Surgeries campaigners call out health bosses over “unbelievable dirty plot” to close Moray surgeries following release of new internal emails

By Abbie Duncan

Register for free to read more of the latest local news. It's easy and will only take a moment.

Click here to sign up to our free newsletters!

By Abbie Duncan and Lewis McBlane

MORAY campaigners have attacked health bosses for being “in it from the start” in the closure of Hopeman and Burghead doctor’s surgeries, following the release of new internal emails.

Plans for the closure of the branch surgeries in Burghead and Hopeman (pictured) were being discussed as early as June 2021. Picture: Daniel Forsyth
Plans for the closure of the branch surgeries in Burghead and Hopeman (pictured) were being discussed as early as June 2021. Picture: Daniel Forsyth

The Save Our Surgeries campaign group have been left “shocked” and “infuriated” by the documents revealed by The Northern Scot’s Freedom of Information request. Emails show Health and Social Care Moray (HSCM) and The Moray Integration Joint Board (MIJB) providing guidance to Moray Coast Medical Practice on how to avoid community backlash.

The correspondence also reveals that plans for the closure were being discussed as early as June 2021 — months before public consultations began.

The emails exchanged between the three entities detail guidance provided by the Health and Social Care Moray (HSCM) for the closure process, including strategies to manage community engagement during consultations. The documents reference “learning points” from the closure of Methlick branch surgery in Aberdeenshire in 2019 due to ongoing staffing issues. A Health and Social Care Moray spokesperson argued that similar staffing issues were faced by Moray Coast Medical Practice, which led to their decision to close the two branch surgeries and that they agreed this “would support the practice to continue to deliver safe, effective care to all its patients.”

Among the guidance provided were suggestions to focus on broader health and social care development plans for Moray Coast Medical Practice, rather than dwelling on the closure of the specific surgeries and the group were encouraged to “emphasise positive outcomes”. Additionally, Health and Social Care Moray recommended strategies for engaging with elected officials early in the process and emphasising positive outcomes were recommended.

The guidance also noted that at Methlick branch surgery, the local bus company had been willing to adjust timetables and routes to accommodate the closure's impact on those using public transportation. Unfortunately those living in Hopeman and Burghead have been unable to access a direct route to Lossiemouth, to receive in person medical care.

In response to the revelations, the Save Our Surgeries group who have been fighting to reinstate the medical services in the two villages said: “We are very very disappointed with Health and Social Care Moray and the MIJB. We were led to believe that the decision to close our surgeries had always been Moray Coast Medical Practice's alone due to their own constraints and challenges as a business entity.

“Now, to find out that there is a paper trail that shows that HSCM was in it from the start, providing guidance to mitigate community resistance to engagement, consultations and decision is beyond imagination, absolutely shocking and infuriating.

“We must now call for Scottish Government to have a proper neutral and impartial line of inquiry into the handling of this case, to make sure that people are held to account for the unbelievable dirty plot they played against the communities they are meant to serve. This is no precedence to be set against our rural communities who rely on trust from those who are serving them.”

In contrast, Health and Social Care Moray has attributed the closure proposals to the challenges faced by Moray Coast Medical Practice in maintaining services across multiple sites. A spokesperson for Health and Social Care Moray said: "Moray Coast Medical Practice (MCMP) experienced a number of challenges in maintaining services across its three sites in the lead up to its proposal to close the branch surgeries at Burghead and Hopeman. Having considered the practice’s difficult position, it was our recommendation to the Moray Integration Joint that the proposal would support the practice to continue to deliver safe, effective care to all its patients and support its future sustainability.

“Officers from HSCM, along with the practice manager from MCMP, have met together with the Save our Surgeries group on many occasions to discuss the closure of the branch surgeries and the opportunities to enhance patient care and safety, as well as provide a greater range of services from a single practice site at Lossiemouth. We believe our discussions have always been open and honest and it is disappointing to read the comments from the group.

“We consider the documents released by Moray Coast Medical Practice in response to the Freedom of Information request show our genuine efforts to follow best practice in relation to the engagement and consultation process. This includes the learning points identified by a neighbouring Health and Social Care Partnership around the closure of a branch surgery and this was discussed with the Steering Group of community representatives and practitioners that oversaw the engagement and consultation process.

“The engagement and consultation process that ultimately followed has already been the subject of an independent review on behalf of the Scottish Government. We met last month with the inquiry lead officer and members of SOS group to discuss the preliminary report and look forward to the publication of the final report and any recommendations made.

“We continue to seek to work constructively with SOS through our locality planning process to achieve improved health and wellbeing for all citizens."

Do you want to respond to this article? If so, click here to submit your thoughts and they may be published in print.

This site uses cookies. By continuing to browse the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies - Learn More