A major recruitment campaign for more GPs is underway as nurse and healthcare practitioners continue to help a multidisciplinary out of hours service to provide an effective long-term solution
NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde (NHSGGC), Scotland's largest health board, has suspended out of hours services at five centres across the region temporarily due to a shortage of doctors.
A lack of available GPs has occurred across the region as a result of national changes to pension plans and local operations causing senior medics to refuse out of hours work. These senior medics have reduced their shifts to avoid high tax bills on their pension contributions.
NHSGGC claimed to continue a stable out of hours service because it became their “only option” to suspend the services at Inverclyde Royal Hospital, Greenock Health Centre, Easterhouse Health Centre, Gartnavel Royal Hospital and the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital in Glasgow.
The health board said four “core centres” would continue to operate overnight and on weekends at Stobhill, Victoria, Royal Alexandra, with the Vale of Leven Hospitals being open through the week. These hospitals have been prioritised because of their capacity, attendance numbers and access.
Kerri Neylon, primary care lead GP at NHSGGC, said: “A number of contributing factors mean the current out of hours service has become unsustainable. Temporary consolidation of services is the only option which will enable us to continue providing the crucial service in the immediate future."
When a similar situation occurred in 2018, if patients required urgent medical care they were either asked to go to an accident and emergency or to wait until the centres reopened at 8am.
A major recruitment campaign for more GPs is underway as nurse and healthcare practitioners continue to help a multidisciplinary out of hours service to provide an effective long-term solution.
On the NHS website it states that improvements are being implemented to help sustain a reliable out of hours service. Such improvements include a new digital technology "Attend Anywhere" option where patients are able to make an appointment and have a consultation via a video call out of hours. A programme of improvements has also begun to help some centres in facing environmental and operational challenges, including additional engagements of the ambulance service to increase paramedic involvement out of hours.
Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA's Scottish GP Committee, said: “It is an inescapable fact that doctors across Scotland are having to decline extra work due to massive and often unexpected tax bills."
Buist went on to say that doctors are also having to retire early, which is “contributing substantially to issues with out of hours care."
The government is looking into solving the crisis after pressure from 11 medical bodies including BMA, a trade union for doctors and medical students across the UK, which has confirmed talks with the Treasury as part of the Government review.
Scotland’s Health Secretary, Jeane Freeman, said that the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s out of hours GP service “needs significant improvement” and is among her priorities.