Fury at revelation that fire-hit surgery had no insurance

John Devlin, left, and Joe Gorman outside the clinic in Bellshill.
John Devlin, left, and Joe Gorman outside the clinic in Bellshill.

A GP practice was slammed this week after it emerged the doctors had no insurance for their surgery which was burned to the ground.

John Street Surgery has been using Bellshill Community Health Clinic since the blaze five years ago.

But that has meant the £4.5 million clinic has been unable to offer many of the services it was supposed to provide to the wider community.

Now campaigners have branded the doctors ‘squatters’ whose ‘incompetence’ has led to Bellshill missing out on badly-needed health facilities.

The surgery was demolished after the fire - caused by an electrical fault - in November 2009.

In order to continue to care for its 8,300 patients, the practice moved to the modern clinic in Greenmoss Place which had opened the previous year.

That was supposed to be only a temporary move until a replacement surgery was built in John Street, but Bellshill Community Council members John Devlin and Joe Gorman grew anxious as time passed with no sign of a new building.

In January last year practice manager Sandra Gibson said plans were about to be submitted to North Lanarkshire Council. It was hoped to have the new surgery open in the summer this year, but that hasn’t happened.

The revelation that the orginal building was not covered by insurance has fuelled the campaigners’ suspicion that there were no plans to build a replacement.

Mr Devlin said: “We smelled a rat from the beginning. Bellshill Clinic was a brand new facility, bringing a whole lot of services together so people didn’t have to travel for treatment.

“Now we learn that because of the doctors’ incompetency the people have lost out on those services and the question must be asked - just how long were the doctors operating without insurance at their old surgery?”

Mr Gorman, a former Labour councillor, said he had campaigned for the new clinic which offered services including minor surgery, heart disease surveillance, physiotherapy, and speech and language therapy.

He stated: “I envisaged it being open seven days a week into the evening, saving some accident and emergency patients a trip to either Wishaw General or Monklands.

“But it’s lying empty after surgery hours and the only people benefitting are John Street patients who have been using it for the last five years.

“In my view the doctors have been squatting there. They have been devious about their future plans and it’s a disgrace that people have been denied the use of their new clinic because of them.”

The community council pair say the latest revelation adds insult to injury following their discovery that the GP practice is paying NHS Lanarkshire only £8,100 per year for use of the Greenmoss Place facility.

Mr Devlin and Mr Gorman found out the old surgery was not insured after writing to Scottish Health Secretary Alex Neil.

In a letter last week Frank McGregor, one of Mr Neil’s senior officials told them: “Without going into details, the premises were not insured. The health board was therefore presented with a significant problem - patients still needed access to their doctor and there was no prospect of new premises being built in the immediate aftermath of the fire.

“The only available option was to allow the practice to operate out of Bellshill Community Health Clinic, despite the fact these premises were not designed to accommodate a GP practice.”

The John Street practice failed to respond to our request for a comment.

A spokesman for NHS Lanarkshire said insurance was a matter for the GP practice and refused to comment on it.

He added: “We have a responsibility to ensure that NHS patients in the Bellshill area can access local GP services and as a temporary measure we agreed to house the practice within multi-purpose rooms in Bellshill Community Health Clinic.

“The rooms which were allocated to the practice were ‘bookable rooms’ which were not designated to any particular service.

“While the temporary loss of these rooms has resulted in some outpatient clinics which provide services such as child immunisation, psychology and community midwifery, being required to use alternative space at neighbouring NHS Lanarkshire premises, there has been no loss of service to patients in this community.

“Staff from NHS Lanarkshire’s primary care department are assisting colleagues in the John Street practice to develop plans via a team of architects and other professionals to redevelop its former site.”