A framework for the long term future of primary care out-of-hours services in Scotland has been welcomed by Scottish Health Secretary Shona Robison, by the Royal Colleges and widely across NHS Scotland.
The independent Primary Care Out-of-Hours Review published on 30 November was chaired by Professor Sir Lewis Ritchie OBE, Mackenzie Professor of General Practice at the University of Aberdeen
The main recommendations focus on the need for multi-disciplinary teams – including GPs, nurses, physiotherapists, community pharmacists, social care and other specialists – working together at urgent care resource hubs across Scotland.
The Review, which the Scottish Government commissioned earlier this year, forms part of its plans to transform primary care services in light of the demands of Scotland’s ageing population, and as health and social care services are integrated.
The Scottish Government has made £1 million of initial funding available immediately to fast-track the testing of the new urgent care model. A detailed Government response to the recommendations and a national implementation plan, including an outline of investment to support delivery, will follow in spring 2016.
The Review also recommends developing a set of national standards for urgent out-of-hours care, improving patient record systems and technology, further developing support for self-care and enhancing joint working between health boards including the Scottish Ambulance Service and NHS 24.
In addition, the Review recommends that newly qualified GPs should be offered a one year post to include out-of-hours work with enhanced support and continuing professional development in out-of-hours medical care.
Sir Lewis said: “The people of Scotland deserve a high-quality out-of-hours service which fully meets their needs and does so consistently and reliably throughout Scotland.
“The Scottish Government commissioned this Review to ensure that person-centred, sustainable, high quality and safe primary care is delivered when GP practices are closed. I hope the recommendations from this review help achieve that, but also look forward and begin to lay the foundations for consistent urgent and emergency care on a continuous 24/7 basis.
“We must think anew about what is best for both urgent and emergency care for the people of Scotland. We should now move towards a seamless service, which not only meets the needs of patients, but also offers a valued working and learning environment for all those delivering health and social care services, whether that be the NHS, local authority social services or the third sector.
“The approach to this Review has been inclusive and I am indebted to the people of Scotland who have participated through individual contributions to the review. I have also been heartened by the commitment and dedication of my colleagues who work for the NHS, local authorities and the third sector.”
Ms Robison said: “I welcome Sir Lewis’ Primary Care Out-of-Hours Review which will service as a framework for the long-term future of out-of-hours services in Scotland.
“Our NHS is facing different demands from those of a decade ago and we need to ensure all parts of the system work as effectively as possible to support an ageing population and more people with more complex, multiple conditions.
“Over the course of the Review, Sir Lewis has consulted widely with professionals and patients in every single health board area across Scotland. This reflects our open approach, and willingness to listen.
“We are already taking a comprehensive range of actions across all areas of our health service in order to meet the changing demands and the recommendations in Sir Lewis’ Review will build on this, helping ensure a more effective and sustainable service for the future."