Worry expressed over impact of new town on health care services

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Portlethen and District Community Council have voiced their concerns over the potential new town development at Elsick which they say could potentially see a further 2000 patients using the health-care facilities at Portlethen Medical Centre.

Members of the Community Council feel they need “comfort” in knowing that residents’ health care will not be affected if Chapelton of Elsick gets the go ahead.

The first phase of the planned development could see around 800 homes being built on farmland across the A90 from Newtonhill and although the Elsick Development Company have been in discussions with Portlethen Medical Centre and NHS Grampian, residents remain worried about the town’s impact.

Community Councillors and residents say that although putting an extra few doctors into Portlethen Medical Centre will help with GP appointments, many people who visit the surgery will be attending nurse appointments or for different clinics, meaning around 2000 extra patients could be attending the Medical Centre for services such as these, which were described as “already busy” and “difficult to get an appointment as it is.”

The Community Council said their two biggest worries with regards to the development are health care and education, but Lord David Southesk, Director of the Elsick Development Company said in June that the inclusion of education and health care was extremely important to Chapelton of Elsick and that they hoped to set up a satellite medical service initially until there is more demand for a bigger facility.

Councillor Carl Nelson said: “It’ll probably be several years before there’s the number of people required for a facility. The town will need so many houses and people before anything can be done about it, quite like the school situation at Hillside.”

Community Councillor Paul Melling said, when speaking about Portlethen GP Dr Clark’s visit to the PDCC meeting: “Dr Clark was quite aware of the potential problem and it will be sorted, but only when there’s enough people. Dr Clark didn’t seem worried about the impact it would have on the Medical Centre.”

Meanwhile Councillor Alison Evison said it’s “something that needs to be looked at very seriously in the near future” and PDCC Chairman Ron Sharp said it’s potentially “something we need to keep an eye on.”

Councillor Ian Mollison took a more laid back approach and said: “It’s worth stepping back a moment - when Portlethen Medical Centre started off there was only one doctor serving the whole area, then two other doctors joined, but I don’t recall huge concerns about how they were going to cope, despite houses being built rapidly in Portlethen and Newtonhill.

“There’s been new houses built in their hundreds and medical services moved forward step by step, and at each stage the medical services coped and expanded. Looking at that we can hopefully have comfort and see that they can work and grow with other houses in the area.”

A spokesperson for the Elsick Development Company said: “Elsick Development Company wants to ensure that GP surgeries, dentists and pharmacist outlets can be provided within Chapelton so that no additional burden is placed on existing services.

“To that end, discussions are taking place with Portlethen Medical Centre and NHS Grampian to determine appropriate phasing and specific requirements. The broad strategy is to provide neighbourhood-based facilities as the community grows, until they can be brought together in a purpose-built medical centre. A site in the town centre has been identified for this purpose.”