ASSURANCES have been given over the provision of out of hours NHS services for Wee County residents.

MSP Keith Brown and council leader Ellen Forson this month met with NHS Forth Valley chief executive Cathie Cowan following concerns raised over the service.

The politicians said the meeting came after Wee County people had to travel outside Clacks to access out of hours GP services over the last few years.

Mr Brown explained he has received firm assurances that the health board remains committed to providing the service in the area.

He said: “While I understand that pressure on the system, including UK wide recruitment issues, has meant that services have had to be consolidated in fewer locations for clinical or staffing reasons, I have made it clear to NHS Forth Valley that people in Clackmannanshire must be able to continue to access out of hours health care locally and I was pleased to receive assurances that the health board remains committed to providing services in Clackmannanshire which I am sure will be welcomed by my constituents.”

A spokesperson for the health board explained the out of hours (OOH) primary care services are provided from three locations across the wider area, including Clacks.

They said: “People across Forth Valley often travel to different OOH centres, depending on service demand and availability of appointments.

“There are also occasions where services are consolidated in either one or two OOH centres for clinical or staffing reasons.

“However, during these periods local people across Forth Valley, including those in Clackmannanshire, have continued to access the advice and treatment they required without any issues.”

Many referrals to the OOH service are managed via telephone consultations nowadays and the ability to provide video consultations has “significantly reduced the need for people to travel to a centre during evenings or weekends”.

The spokesperson added: “Prescriptions can also be sent direct to local pharmacies, so people no longer have to visit a centre to pick up a prescription and home visits continue to be arranged for local people across Forth Valley, where required.

“Work continues to review and redesign services to meet the future needs and we also plan to explore opportunities to use our own vehicle fleet to help transport people to and from OOH appointments, if required.”

The two politicians explained that constituents have expressed fears that there may be plans to reduce the service as people had to attend at Stirling or Falkirk.

However, with assurances given, Cllr Forson said: “The pandemic has made it clear that people need to be able to access health services in their local area and the confirmation that Clackmannanshire’s out of hours services are safe is good news.”