Family doctors are concerned the proposed £100 million Crieff Hydro East development could overwhelm the capacity of local health services.
Concerned medical professionals claim the outline project, which includes plans for a 100-bed care home at the moment, would reduce the quality of GP services to existing patients as well as placing extra demands on organisations like the Scottish Ambulance Service and district nurses.
A group of nine doctors, who among them run Crieff’s two medical practices, are among a number of individuals and organisations who have raised formal objections to the development.
Members of East Strathearn Community Council have also objected citing fears the local health service would be “overstretched” and noting that many local residents are unhappy with the scale of the project as a whole.
Crieff Community Council has asked planners for more time to consider their response to the proposal.
Earlier this year, bosses at Crieff Hydro submitted a bid to build a mixed-use development at a site west of Gilmerton.
An outline blueprint for the long-term project includes a 100-bed care home, assisted-living accommodation for a further 100 people, 200 holiday lodges plus a large farm shop, café and new leisure facilities.
A public consultation into the application for outline planning permission ended on March 8. Responses to the project can now be viewed on Perth and Kinross Council’s website.
The GPs challenging the proposal are concerned about the scale of the planned “rural `mega-care home’” which they describe as being more like a district general hospital than a conventional care home.
They note that Crieff already has a high number of care home beds and that concentrating “large numbers of nursing home beds in a rural area is likely to overwhelm the capacity of local health services.”
The doctors state: “There is a great deal of published evidence that patients in care homes make far heavier use of GP services than patients of the same age in the community.
“In the Crieff Red Practice, care home residents make up 2% of patients but account for 40% of our home visits.”
They also point out that the area’s existing eight care homes already have 28 vacant beds, adding: “There is no local need for another care home.”
The doctors note: “We also have concerns about the size of the proposed institution. The proposed development is closer in scale to a district general hospital – Perth Royal Infirmary has around 267 beds – than a conventional care home.”
They are concerned it will be difficult for them to deliver high quality care to such a home adding that Crieff already has an above average number of elderly patients.
The doctors note that another care home development would further distort local demographics and fear it could set a precedent for further homes in the area if the project gets the green light.
Their joint letter concludes: “We believe the proposed development will reduce the quality of GP services to our existing patients. In the interests of the community as a whole, we urge the committee to avoid concentrating such large numbers of care home beds in rural areas.”
The hotel’s Chief Executive Stephen Leckie said the application will now take due course through the various planning stages.
He said: “We are at the stage of planning in principle and have followed due procedure.
“The proposal is now in the hands of the planners and people are entitled to make their comments and views known.”
A Perth and Kinross Council spokesperson said officials will now look into all the relevant information before making a recommendation on the plan which will then go before the local authority’s development management committee for determination.