Shortage of doctors leads to changes in out-of-hours care

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A shortage of doctors has led NHS Forth Valley to make changes to its out-of-hours care for patients.

The move has been prompted by “increasing and ongoing challenges in providing sufficient medical cover”, according to the health authority.

Changes will be put in place from Monday, July 24, to September 30.

NHS officials hope it will provide greater stability and allow patients to continue to access GP advice, treatment and home visits during evenings, weekends and public holidays.

Although there are no alterations to the operating times of the out-of-hours centre at Forth Valley Royal Hospital in Larbert, there are changes in Stirling and Clackmannanshire.

This will mean more patients accessing care from the Larbert site and could potentially lead to longer waits.

During the week the out-of-hours service will continue to be provided from the three sites up to midnight. After midnight only Larbert will be open and not Stirling.

At weekends and public holidays services will run from Larbert and Stirling up to midnight and only Larbert after midnight.

Services will continue to be accessed via NHS 24 who will arrange appointments.

Andrew Murray, NHS Forth Valley’s medical director, said: “Over the last few months, like many other parts of Scotland, we have experienced significant challenges in filling our GP out-of-hours rotas. These problems were becoming more frequent and while, we have tried to put in place contingency arrangements, we knew that it would become increasingly difficult to adequately staff our centres over the summer holiday period.”

He added that GPs had raised concerns about working alone.

Angus MacDonald, Falkirk East MSP, said he was confident patients would see no real impact.

He said: “It is recognised that our NHS is facing challenges across the country, however these interim changes to the provision of Primary Care Out of Hours Services make sense in terms of continuing to provide a service 24 hours per day in an environment where our GPs are not working in isolation, and have the support of colleagues all in the one place.

“There is no change in the way patients are able to call NHS 24 for these services. For the very small amount of patients this will affect, I am confident that patients will see no real impact in the services provided, given that current provisions mean patients receive a variety of options including house calls and telephone consultations. It may even be the case, under normal circumstances, that patients from the Stirling or Clackmannanshire areas will be sent to Larbert anyway if there are appointments available there.

“In short, our NHS will continue to provide the highest possible service that the public expect, making best use of resources available to them, and will provide a stable environment for our GPs and NHS teams to work together and support each other in providing an excellent Primary Care Out of Hours service.”