Scottish nurses to take over GP out-of-hours

Scottish health ministers are considering plans to farm out GP work to nurses to tackle the country’s out-of-hours staffing crisis.

GPC Scotland chairman Dr Dean Marshall
GPC Scotland chairman Dr Dean Marshall

The plans follow a report by Audit Scotland that found the number of GPs willing to work shifts during evenings and week-ends had fallen by 15 per cent in the 12 months to April 2007. It also found NHS boards were struggling to fill rotas (GP, 31 August - Scottish out-of-hours pay may rise).

The Scottish executive has confirmed that it is looking to nurses and other healthcare workers to fill the gap in out-of-hours care left after the new GMS contract allowed GPs to opt out of 24-hour responsibility. But GP leaders said nurses did not have the skills to cope with many life-threatening conditions and warned the plans were ‘dangerous'.

GPC Scotland chairman Dr Dean Marshall told GP that there was no shortage of GPs wanting the work. Cost-cutting exercises were behind the amount of out-of-hours work being carried out by GPs, he said.

'Put simply, nurses cost less. Obviously money is an issue, but it is not the only issue. Clearly we have had a problem with getting GPs to do out-of-hours shifts. In my opinion the primary care organisations (PCOs) have done a lot to exacerbate the problem. In some cases they have given the shifts to nurses because they're cheaper,' he said.

henry.ellis@haymarket.com

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