Bixter Health Centre is to be taken over by Scalloway Health Centre, it was announced yesterday.
The move secures the future of the West Side practice, and services will continue there without a break.
Chairman of the board of NHS Shetland Ian Kinniburgh said the news brought “stability” to the situation, as there had been fears that the Bixter area would be left without a GP following the departure of Caroline Hinton, and this had caused concern.
The move was “good news for patients,” Mr Kinniburgh said, and he hoped the surgery would go “from strength to strength”.
He explained that until Scalloway GP Paul Veenhuizen got everything “up and running”, the health centre at Bixter would be manned by locum GP Mark Aquilina.
“Caroline stepped down and Mark stepped in,” he said.
Mr Kinniburgh said: “Scalloway Health Centre was successful in their bid to take over the [Bixter] Health Centre.
“I’m delighted and this brings certainty going forward. I’m delighted for the community because concerns had been expressed.”
Mr Kinniburgh said that the takeover created “resilience”, and strengthened both the Bixter practice and the Scalloway one, which is run by Dr Veenhuizen and his GP wife Philippa.
However, at least one other GP will have to be recruited to run the Bixter practice – and recently a nationwide shortage of GPs has been widely reported.
Mr Kinniburgh said: “Paul [Veenhuizen] is very confident he can recruit another GP. Knowing that the practice is linked to another practice makes recruitment more attractive.”
Dr [Paul] Veenhuizen will become GP principal and run the two health centres as a combined practice.
Mr Kinniburgh added that Bixter would continue as an “independent” practice, contracted to the health board, rather than an NHS salaried one.
According to the community, it had been a “very stable” single-handed practice, with only four changes of doctor over more than 50 years.
Mr Kinniburgh said combining with Bixter made the future of Scalloway Health Centre look “very positive” after the widespread public concern a couple of years ago that it would be damaged by the loss of its pharmacy.
That happened when legislation about provision of pharmacies changed, and the fear was that the loss of income would badly affect the health centre.
Scalloway Health Centre is now due to move into new purpose-built premises in the former primary school.
Dr Veenhuizen said: “I am really pleased to have been awarded the contract and look forward to working with the staff at Bixter to continue to deliver the high quality of service patients in the area have always had. I would also reassure patients in both Scalloway and Bixter that it will be very much a case of business as usual.”
NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts said: “We are very pleased that we received excellent tenders from a number of practices who were keen to provide a service to the Bixter patients and I would like to thank them.
“We are confident that the practice will provide an excellent service to the local population and should provide a long term solution to primary care services in Bixter. I am also grateful to the staff in the practice who have continued to provide the service through a period of uncertainty.”