Scottish practices face being asked to work public holidays

The Scottish Health Department is considering asking GP surgeries to open on public holidays.

The plans were suggested by Scotland's out-of-hours helpline, NHS24, to reduce the number of calls it receives over Easter and Christmas.

A spokeswoman for NHS24 said it was in talks with the Scottish Health Department about how to 'utilise the extended hours contract to provide the most flexibility for patients' during consecutive public holidays like Christmas and Easter.

The helpline's annual report revealed that last Easter, NHS24 received 40,000 calls over four days - 19 per cent more calls than the previous year.

A Scottish Health Department spokeswoman said it was involved in talks with NHS24 about how to improve access.

'You expect the surgeries to be closed for a few days but by the fourth day, that's when you'd like to see the surgeries open.

'The cabinet secretary (Nicola Sturgeon) is keen on seeing flexible hours for patients to offer a better service for patients not just help NHS 24 within times of higher demand.'

The spokeswoman said a lot of GPs had started to open extended hours since the department offered an extended hours directed enhanced service worth £2.65 million.

Dr Andrew Buist, deputy chairman of GPC Scotland, said: 'There are better ways of dealing with this.

'These are predictable periods of high demand and most boards can simply employ additional out-of-hours GPs in strategically placed locations on, say, December 26.'

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