GP out-of-hours services hit by closures amid workforce crisis

Out-of-hours services have been hit by closures caused by the GP recruitment and retention crisis in parts of Scotland, as providers in England struggle to fill shifts.

Out-of-hours services forced to close (Photo: iStock)
Out-of-hours services forced to close (Photo: iStock)

Overnight GP services have been closed until at least January 2019 across three sites in Fife, after local health bosses were unable to find staff to bring an initial three-month suspension - in place since April - to an end.

In Glasgow, three primary care emergency centres offering GP out-of-hours services were forced to close overnight on Sunday 17 June due to a lack of healthcare staff and although services have since reopened, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde says it is continuing to experience problems.

Out-of-hours providers in England, meanwhile, reported problems filling shifts after the end of the 2017/18 winter indemnity scheme.

Out-of-hours GP care

Fife health and social care partnership director Michael Kellet said the area had 'no other option' but to extend its closure of out-of-hours GP services, with a review scheduled for January 2019.

He said: 'Fife, like many other areas of Scotland is experiencing the impact of national shortages of key staff in this area.

‘We have taken and will continue to take every step available to us to try and resume services. This includes advertising to recruit nursing and GP staff and working with GP leads to encourage our existing workforce to support the service wherever possible.’

A spokesperson for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde told GPonline: ‘While we strive to fill every GP out-of-hours rota every week, we continue to have medical staffing issues resulting in us moving GPs from site to site to provide a robust service and reduce any impact on patient care.

Sustainable NHS

‘We are reviewing how best to deliver a sustainable GP out-of-hours service across Greater Glasgow and Clyde in the longer term. The review is part of a wider discussion on how to enhance the overall out-of-hours health and social care services for all our patients.’

Scottish GPC chair Alan McDevitt said: ‘Given the challenges of recruitment and retention of GPs that Scotland faces, issues with out-of-hours primary care such as this are no surprise.’

Statistics released last month at the BMA’s annual conference in Brighton showed that 71% of Scottish doctors feel that NHS services have worsened in the last year, with nine out of 10 saying that staffing is not adequate to provide quality patient care.

Speaking at the conference, BMA Scotland chair Dr Peter Bennie said health services in Scotland were ‘clinging on by [their] fingertips’, adding: ‘The survey results in Scotland demonstrate the stark reality of a profession pushed to the brink. While doctors are delivering high quality care wherever and however they possibly can, we are stretched to the limit of what we are capable of.’

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