Nicola Sturgeon pledged to look into claims elderly patients with no access to computers are struggling to get in-person GP appointments.
The First Minister insisted it is essential patients get face-to-face access to a doctor after concerns were raised at Holyrood about individual struggles during the pandemic.
North East Tory MSP Tess White called for improvements after telling Ms Sturgeon about a 79-year-old man’s troubled attempts to see a doctor.
In Holyrood, Ms White said: “I have a constituent with significant health issues who had real problems getting to see an actual GP.
“It took two hypo episodes, three eConsults and four telephone calls over one week before an appointment with the GP was obtained and he did have a computer.”
She did not reveal personal details of the man during the exchanges in the Scottish Parliament.
But Ms Sturgeon was told to immediately explain when surgeries will be more open to people without access to computers who need to see doctors.
‘Not an acceptable experience’
Ms Sturgeon said: “Obviously, I do not know all the circumstances of the case, but it sounds as if it was not an acceptable experience for any patient. I will be happy to look at the details if they are provided.
“It is important to say that GP practices have remained open during the pandemic, although they have had to change the way in which they cater for patients. They continue to provide clinical care, making more use of NHS near me and telephone consultations, but we are very clear that there must always be an option to have a face-to-face consultation if that is clinically necessary.
“The chair of the British Medical Association’s general practitioners committee has commented that face-to-face appointments are an essential part of what GPs do and that GPs are committed to ensuring availability of those appointments. Obviously, individual GP practices have to assess their own circumstances and risks, but it is absolutely essential that patients get access to face-to-face appointments when that is in their interests.
“I repeat the offer to look in more detail at the specific case that has been raised, if the patient wishes her or his details to be passed to me.”
Ms White, who previously worked in oil and gas and stood for Westminster in Dundee, said the system is not good enough.
“Normal service has to resume again otherwise the Scottish Government risks placing people in a precarious position regarding their health,” she said.
“It shouldn’t take a whole week for a patient to be granted access to their doctor which is simply unacceptable.
“Patients are fighting tooth and nail for something that should be readily available to them and the Scottish Government must act now to change this process.”