Scots GPs to share burden of out-of-hours care

Health secretary Shona Robison welcomed  findings. Picture: John Devlin
Health secretary Shona Robison welcomed findings. Picture: John Devlin
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GPs will no longer be the “default healthcare professionals” for patients seeking urgent care, according to a review of out-of-hours services.

It proposes a new model of urgent care with multi-disciplinary teams working together at resource hubs across Scotland.

The teams would include GPs, nurses, physiotherapists, community pharmacists, social care and other specialists.

The review, chaired by Professor Sir Lewis Ritchie, was commissioned by the Scottish Government.

It forms part of the government’s plans to transform primary care services in the light of the demands of Scotland’s ageing population, and as health and social care services are integrated.

It found the current arrangements for out-of hours services is “fragile, not sustainable and will worsen unless immediate and robust measures are taken to promote the recruitment and retention of sufficient numbers of GPs working in both daytime and out-of-hours services”.

An “enhanced capacity, multi-disciplinary out-of-hours workforce should be rapidly built up”, the review says.

Its 28 recommendations also include developing a set of national standards for urgent out-of-hours care, improving patient record systems and technology, further developing support for self-care, and enhancing joint working between health boards including the Scottish Ambulance Service and NHS 24.

In addition, it recommends newly qualified GPs should be offered a one-year post to include out-of-hours work with enhanced support and continuing professional development in out-of-hours medical care.

Sir Lewis said: “I hope the recommendations from this review help achieve that, but also look forward and begin to lay the foundations for consistent urgent and emergency care on a continuous 24/7 basis.”

Health secretary Shona Robison welcomed the findings.

She said: “We are already ­taking a comprehensive range of actions across all areas of our health service in order to meet the changing demands, and the recommendations in Sir Lewis’s review will build on this, helping ensure a more effective and ­sustainable service for the future.”

Dr Andrew Buist of BMA Scotland’s GP committee said: “It is welcome that this review has recognised the need to take a number of steps that the BMA has previously called for.

Scottish Labour said there was a “growing crisis” in family doctor services.