Scottish out-of-hours review must use wider primary care workforce to support GPs

Scotland's review of out-of-hours services must recognise 'the tough realities in general practice', and develop a new model that uses other primary care staff to complement GPs' role, GP leaders have said.

Dr Andrew Buist: GPC backs Scottish out-of-hours review (Photo: Malcolm Case-Green)
Dr Andrew Buist: GPC backs Scottish out-of-hours review (Photo: Malcolm Case-Green)

The Scottish government is consulting on a review of out-of-hours primary care services and unscheduled care that will consider how the services should change to cope with an ageing population and to fit with health and social care integration.

Professor Lewis Ritchie, chairman of the review, is scheduled to visit each health board area in Scotland to gather feedback from GPs and others on the front line.

The review will consider what care is expected at night and weekends, and core requirements in terms of skills and staffing. It will also develop pilots and consider how to develop a more collaborative approach across health and social care organisations to unscheduled care. Findings from the review are scheduled for release in the autumn.

Out-of-hours changes

The Scottish GPC said it ‘broadly supported’ the aims of the review, adding that it would be ‘actively involved’.

Dr Andrew Buist, Scottish GPC deputy chairman, said: ‘We want to see a safe, sustainable out-of-hours service that meets the needs of the population where they have a clinical condition that can’t wait until routine services re-open.’

But he went on to warn that this would be no easy task, and it was important that the plans ‘take full recognition of the tough realities in general practice’.

‘There are serious and long standing recruitment and retention problems within the GP workforce, and this review must look to a new model that makes more effective use of the skills of the diverse primary health care workforce to complement the role of the GP.

‘It is equally important that where GPs are involved in the out-of-hours services, they are made to feel valued and supported.’

GP feedback

Scottish health secretary Shona Robison said: ‘It is more than 10 years since the current system was created, making it the right time to review these services to ensure they continue to deliver sustainable, high quality, safe and effective care.

‘The feedback gathered from the engagement sessions, as well as all other research being undertaken by Professor Ritchie and his review team, will provide crucial insight to shape the review.’

Professor Ritchie said: ‘So far I have visited Dumfries and Galloway and Tayside. Both visits provided me with invaluable insight into the area’s approach. It was interesting to hear views from the diverse range of people who participated in each visit including doctors, like myself, nurses, drivers, volunteers and local elected members. I have taken some very sound food for thought from each visit.’

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