A FIFE MSP said she plans to speak to NHS Fife urgently over increasing concern over face to face access to GPs.

Annabelle Ewing raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament this week after hearing a growing number of concerns about constituents not being able to see their doctor.

“I asked what steps are being taken to improve patient access to GPs and was pleased to hear the FM outline a number of measures that are underway as well as stressing that, where clinically necessary, the option to have a face to face consultation should always be available," she said.

“The aspiration of returning to a greater availability of face to face appointments is already in the Scottish Government’s Recovery Plan and Public Health Scotland has published updated guidance for primary care settings, including on key issues like physical distancing requirements which has now been reduced to one metre in most settings."

Despite these reassurances, Ms Ewing said she has not had the same message relayed to her from NHS Fife and plans to get answers from them urgently.

She added: “That appears to contradict information I have been given by NHS Fife regarding distancing at GPs surgeries, both in a meeting with them last Friday and in a written update, so I will be taking this matter up with NHS Fife urgently."

Earlier this month, the Times reported concerns raised by Labour MSP Alex Rowley who said "numerous" people had got in touch with him about the issue.

Constituents had contacted him telling them that they had been unable to get an appointment to see a GP or medical staff and ended up severely ill at hospital later putting an even great strain on the hospital services.

NHS Fife's Director of Nursing and Executive Lead for Infection Prevention and Control, Janette Owens, said medical practices across Fife continue to follow national guidance on infection prevention and control.

"Such measures are in place to minimise the risks for the many vulnerable patients attending GP surgeries, and indeed for the staff working in these areas," she said.

“Practices must continually manage the number of patients attending at any one time, and while some of the guidance for primary care settings has recently eased, there continues to be a necessity for a minimum of one metre physical distancing within waiting areas, and two metre distancing is still required for patients who are considered most clinically vulnerable.

“In some practices, and particularly those with smaller waiting areas, distancing requirements continue to impact on the number of patients who can safely wait, and this can in turn reduce the number of in-person appointments practices can make available.”

Associate Medical Director for the Fife Health and Social Care Partnership, Dr Helen Hellewell, added: “The proportion of face-to-face appointments available to patients in Fife continues to increase as it has for many months, with many thousands of face-to-face consultations provided each week.

“We recognise, however, that patients at a number of practices are having difficulty accessing appointments, whether face-to-face or otherwise.

"Like very many other areas of the healthcare system, general practice is experiencing significant and sustained pressure, with the demand for healthcare at present unlike anything we have ever seen.

"Such pressures are made significantly more challenging due to the UK-wide shortage of general practitioners, which in many areas is reducing the numbers of appointments practices can offer to appointments."