A senior Shropshire health boss has moved to quash fears Shropdoc is replacing GPs for its out-of-hours service.

The fears surfaced after an anonymous letter purporting to be from a Shropdoc insider was sent to Whitchurch Town Council.

Council officials passed the letter to the Herald, but a copy was also displayed in a shop window in the town, stating Shropdoc planned ‘a sinister move’ of removing GPs and replacing them with Urgent Care Practioners (UCP).

However, Dr Russell Muirhead, chair of Shropdoc since 2002, said the use of Urgent Care Practioners in Shropdoc has been happening for the past two years.

He insisted UCPs are put through a stringent national training process.

“It’s been happening for two years,” he said.

“As GP numbers have been dwindling, we have been training up nurses and paramedics and calling them Urgent Care Practioners.

“We have had them in place since around 2006 and then face to face in the past two years.

“Currently Whitchurch Community Hospital has GPs out of hours, working together through a work rota designed to fill any gaps.

“The Urgent Care Practioners are backed by a national standard and have to be suitably trained to do the job.

“In Whitchurch, we have a safe working rota.

“We don’t have gaps in our rota like other areas of the country.”

Dr Muirhead added the use of UCP reflects the changes in medical care in the past decade.

He said: “People going to the doctor over the past 10 years see a nurse, a pharmacist or physio whereas they used to see just a doctor.”

The anonymous letter stated: “Shropdoc, the out-of-hours service provider for Shropshire, is planning a sinister move by removing doctors during the evenings and overnight from its bases in Ludlow, Newtown and Whitchurch, which have functioned for the past 21 years, and replace them with poorly-qualified UCP, who have had a crash course for just three months.

“It is ludicrous to think a UCP with three months’ experience would have the same expertise to treat patients as a GP with years of training an experience.

“This move is likely to put lives at risk and flood the two hospitals with admissions.”

The anonymously-penned letter added GPs around Shropshire are livid at the moves and also criticised the group’s troubled finances.