Over­worked GPs blamed for cuts to out-of-hours clinic ser­vice

Scottish Daily Mail - - Countdown To Brexit D-day - By Rachel Wat­son

Paul Gray, chief ex­ec­u­tive of NHS Scot­land, said clin­ics op­er­at­ing be­tween the hours of 6pm and 8am of­ten face ‘short-term clo­sures’ as bosses strug­gle to find enough GPs to cover shifts.

He said out-of-hours cen­tres would close if there were fears over ‘pa­tient safety’, forc­ing would-be users to travel else­where.

Writ­ing in his an­nual re­port on the state of Scot­land’s NHS, Mr Gray said around 850,000 pa­tients ac­cess out-of-hours care ev­ery year – with more than a mil­lion con­sul­ta­tions. How­ever, he warned that a lack of staff was forc­ing health cen­tres to cut ser­vices, heap­ing pres­sure on those that re­main open.

His com­ments an­gered doc­tors last night, with Mr Gray ac­cused of fail­ing to recog­nise the grow­ing pres­sure on GPs due to staff short­ages.

Surg­eries across Scot­land are strug­gling to fill va­can­cies, with one in four prac­tices re­port­ing empty posts and some forced to pay more than £1,400 a day to pro­vide cover.

Mr Gray said: ‘Over the last few years, out-of-hours ser­vices have faced a num­ber of chal­lenges – mainly due to a re­duc­tion in the pool of GPs will­ing to work in the ser­vice. This has of­ten led to short-term clo­sures of out-of-hours cen­tres.

‘The de­ci­sion to close cen­tres is Deputy Scot­tish Po­lit­i­cal Editor al­ways taken on the grounds of pa­tient safety. How­ever, clo­sures put fur­ther pres­sure on out-of-hours staff and the home vis­it­ing ser­vice, and of­ten mean that pa­tients are asked to travel fur­ther.’

Mr Gray’s com­ments sparked anger, with crit­ics ar­gu­ing that GPs are fac­ing grow­ing re­cruit­ment pres­sures. Some surg­eries have been forced to close – leav­ing pa­tients with­out a fam­ily doc­tor.

British Med­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion Scot­land GP com­mit­tee chair­man An­drew Buist said: ‘It is only by solv­ing the re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion chal­lenges in gen­eral prac­tice as a whole that we can ex­pect to solve this is­sue in out-of-hours ser­vices.’

Mr Buist said that the new GP con­tract in­tro­duced in April is set to ad­dress the ‘un­man­age­able work­loads that GPs face’.

Re­liance on out-of-hours ser­vices will spike over the hol­i­day pe­riod.

Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive health spokesman Mile Briggs said: ‘This sadly re­flects the pre­dicted short­age of over 900 GPs that Scot­land now faces due to the in­abil­ity of the SNP to prop­erly sup­port pri­mary care.

‘The SNP must lis­ten to the Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive cam­paign to “Save our Surg­eries” and in­vest 11 per cent of the health bud­get in GPs.’

A Scot­tish Govern­ment spokesman said: ‘We are work­ing to in­crease the num­ber of GPs by at least 800 over ten years, in­clud­ing steps to sup­port re­cruit­ment and re­ten­tion in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties.

‘We have also suc­cess­fully ne­go­ti­ated a new GP con­tract, backed by in­vest­ment of £110mil­lion this year, to sta­bilise income, re­duce work­load, and im­prove pa­tient care.

‘Asked to travel fur­ther’

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