GP shortage hits weekend out of hours care cover

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Health bosses have said “robust” contingency measures were put in place to combat a doctors’ shortage which affected out of hours cover across the area last weekend.

A lack of GP availability led to NHS Tayside putting the contingency plans in place, triggering claims the area’s Out Of Hours service was not accepting ambulance crew advice calls and impacting on patients being offered appointments.

In response, a spokesperson for Angus Health and Social Care Partnership, which manages the service for Tayside, said pre-planning has allowed normal levels of demand to be dealt with.

“The activity for Tayside Out of Hours (OOH) Service last weekend was consistent with normal levels with 594 patients seen, 173 home visits carried out and 104 professional advice calls taken,” said the spokesperson.

“Due to a reduced number of GPs available at certain points over the weekend, contingency arrangements were put in place to allow us to successfully maintain the service.

“The OOH team worked closely in partnership with other services including Scottish Ambulance Service, NHS24, pharmacy and hospital services at these times.

“For example, we had previously alerted the Scottish Ambulance Service that there may be a delay in responding to clinical advice calls during certain periods and offered alternative points of contact such as NHS24, and NHS Tayside’s emergency departments and acute medical unit.

“Whilst this is not a common occurrence for Tayside, Out of Hours services across the country remain challenged by a national shortage of GPs and therefore robust contingency arrangements are in place to ensure we keep services running.”

The OOH impact is the latest knock-on of the national GP shortage which has also seen medical practice waiting lists suspended, including a six-month shutdown over the whole of Forfar.

Registration lists for the town’s three surgeries were closed in October.

NHS Tayside recently confirmed that the Ravenswood, Lour Road and Academy Street practices will re-open their lists to new patients on April 19.

The list at Erskine practice at Arthurstone Medical Centre in Dundee will remain closed until the beginning of next month, while Maryfield Medical Practice in the city will not accept new patients until further notice.