HEALTH chiefs who decimated Inverclyde's GP out-of-hours service against the overwhelming will of the public now have no idea of how long patients are having to wait for transport to urgent doctor appointments up to 50 miles outwith the district.

NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde bosses have been accused of 'misleading' over what has been described by newly elected Labour MP Martin McCluskey as a 'jaw dropping' admission amid concern that people are being forced to wait for hours to get access to a GP.

The Telegraph can reveal that the length of time patients are having to wait for transport to take them to a doctor is not recorded on any health board system.

Mr McCluskey said: “These revelations are frankly jaw dropping. When the health board voted to remove Inverclyde’s full out of hours service, we were told patient transport was the solution.

"What these responses show is that the health board has no idea how effective patient transport is and how it is performing.

“People could be waiting for hours to just get to their appointment but the board - by their own admission - would have no idea."

Mr McCluskey added: “This is an issue that disproportionately affects Inverclyde and the board must immediately set out when it will start publishing this data.

"If they either do not know or keep it hidden this will be a further insult to people in Inverclyde.

“What is clear is that board members were misled by the failure to admit over the course of months that this data was not being collected.

"It is now obvious why my repeated questions on this issue were ignored and full answers were not given.

"Behaviour like this is why the opinion of the health board in Inverclyde is at rock bottom.”

Mr McCluskey, who resigned from the health board in protest following the GP cuts in May, was told following a freedom of information request that the health board is not routinely monitoring the patient transport service used to get people to the nearest centre in Paisley.

People in Inverclyde have to travel to Paisley or other centres to see a GP face-to-face when surgeries are closed, apart from limited periods at the weekend.

In spite of a public outcry, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde went ahead with plans to cut the GP out-of-hours service, leaving Inverclyde Royal as the only site not operating a full seven days a week and overnight service.

One of the biggest criticisms was the barriers for patients having to travel up to 50 miles to get to the nearest centre if they need to see a GP out-of-hours.

Mr McCluskey wanted to know both average and the longest waiting times for patients and also the performance against internal waiting standards for transport.

The health board responded by saying that the data requested is not captured on their IT system.

The admission came after Mr McCluskey had repeatedly asked the health board at meetings for more information and data about the performance and reliability of patient transport.

He has now sent a letter to health board chief executive Jane Grant.

Mr McCluskey said: "Following the lack of reply to the freedom of information request, I can only conclude that the health board is actively trying to withhold this information from the public.

"This does not serve to provide confidence in the decision that the board made or the availability of patient transport."

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde ssaid: "Patients attending a GP out-of-hours centre for a physical appointment are assessed and prioritised based on clinical need and allocated either a one-hour, two-hour or four-hour appointment time. If patients are unable to attend at their allocated appointment time, including if our patient transport service [PTS] is unable to meet timescales, then alternative arrangements are made, which can include a GP home visit.

"The GP out-of-hours service across NHSGGC was subject to an extensive public and stakeholder engagement, which included significant scrutiny at a board and sub-committee level including from local MPs/MSPs and councillors as part of this process, giving ample opportunity to feed into the in final proposals.

"Engagement was also assured independently by Healthcare Improvement Scotland [HIS] which provided advice and support throughout to support the final proposals, which were based on all the available data to inform the decision-making process. To suggest the board was misled is therefore inaccurate.

"As a result of the engagement, Inverclyde now benefits from a comprehensive service, including a local physical GP out-of-hours service in operation covering both Saturday and Sunday, in line with demand.

"The number of patients requiring a physical GP appointment during the week past 5pm is very small, but those patients are given free transport as required – and NHS GGC is the only health board in Scotland to offer this service.

"The vast majority of patients are effectively treated over the phone or via virtual consultation or receive a visit from the home visiting GP service."