This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pulse june2020 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

GPs go forth

Out-of-hours service suspended across city again due to GP shortages

All out-of-hours (OOH) services except home visits were stopped by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde health board earlier this month due to problems with GP staffing.

On 8 January, the health board running the service said it was unable to provide GP cover at any of its four OOH centres.

The services - at Stobhill, Victoria, Royal Alexandra, and Inverclyde Royal hospitals -  are usually open from midnight to 8am.

The following evening, on 9 January, it was unable to staff three of the centres, leaving only the OOH service at the Royal Alexandra Hospital in operation.

The health board said during both nights it had ensured a triage and a home visiting service were still in place, but acknowledged the situation was 'unacceptable'.

It follows a similar decision by the health board last summer to shut almost all of its OOH services over a weekend due to not enough GPs ‘willing to work’.

BMA Scotland expressed 'concern' at the problems in Glasgow, and emphasised that there aren't yet 'enough GPs in Scotland'. 

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said it had since launched a campaign encouraging patients to call NHS 24 for an OOH appointment, rather than walking in, which causes unnecessary delays.

As a result there had already been a drop in the number of patients walking into the area's OOH services, said the health board.

It said it will take further action by bringing in extra staff to the multi-disciplinary teams, making improvements to the facilities, and reviewing patient attendances to reduce further walk-ins.

In a statement issued this week by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, a spokesperson said: 'During the hours of midnight to 8.00am the number of patients requiring the GP out-of-hours service is significantly smaller so we reduce the number of centres to typically three centres.

'During the evening of 8 January we had GP cover throughout the night with a triage system and GPs available for our home visiting service. Although we were unable to staff the three centres, all patients were seen.

'On the evening of the 9 January we had a triage and home visiting service available, and had staff available at the GP out-of-hours service in the Royal Alexandra Hospital.'

They added: 'We fully acknowledge that the situation on both nights was unacceptable.'

Dr Andrew Buist, chair of the BMA’s Scottish GP Committee, said: ‘While there are no doubt some circumstances that are specific to Glasgow, put simply we don’t yet have enough GPs in Scotland, which means covering out-of-hours shifts is a real issue.

'And let’s be clear, the perverse pension tax rules which means doctors can face financial penalties for doing extra work, are a significant disincentive.'

He added that the Scottish GP contract that came into force last year is designed to address inappropriate excessive workloads and improve recruitment and retention of GPs.

Pulse previously revealed that out-of-hours centres in Glasgow were closed on 106 occasions in the year preceding May 2018, again due to a lack of GPs.

Earlier that year, the Scottish Liberal Democrat Party unveiled figures proving that some Scottish GPs worked between 80-89 hours per week.

Last summer, GPs proposed taking over the management of the out-of-hours services provided by the same board at Vale of Leven Hospital, citing ‘unacceptable and unsafe’ levels of closure.

Readers' comments (16)

  • “The good news is we kept the money we didn’t spend on staff that week!”

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I blame all GPs for only having 24 hours in their day. They should be forced and tortured to work at least 25 hours per day and for free.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • There probably are enough GPs in Scotland, but they have either taken early retirement or are working as little as they can get away with. A situation for which the BMA shares some of the blame.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • In the immortal words of ACDC
    Listen to the money talk..
    If only I didn't pay 110% tax to work overtime 😕

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • 'There probably are enough GPs in Scotland, but they have either taken early retirement or are working as little as they can get away with. A situation for which the BMA shares some of the blame.'
    Not sure what the BMA has to do with this and if GPs do not wish to work overnight and they are not being enticed to do so by better rates of pay, that surely is not surprising. This has become a market economy and if OOH want to get GPs to work for them, they need to make the job sufficiently attractive, both financially and in respect to workload.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • A market is in operation.

    If the salary went up to £200 per hour, there would be lots of takers.

    It's very simple: the board is not willing to pay the market rate for GP cover.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I work for Glasgow OOH, its a whole load of reasons why so many of us have cut back on our OOH shifts. The pay is crap most of the time and frankly insulting, issues with pensions, but mainly its the intolerable conditions when we get there. Multiple sites are closed , so you have one doc doing the job of about 10 with NO support and often not even a nurse at night, it's dangerous and unsafe. Management have treated us with complete disdain, previously weren't listening at all to us. Scottish government have since got involved so possibly??!! there may be some improvement but none of us are holding our breaths. At some sites they even removed the water coolers so we can't even get a drinko of water, and if you're on a visiting car and the centre's closed, you can't even use the toilet for your whole shift! Basically GG&C have treated us like crap for the past 2 years so we are voting with our feet.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • stopped doing OOH in england for the same reasons as lostthewill to live. Poor pay, poor conditions, dangerous practices and not enough staff. its endemic in the NHS. BMA have been aware of this for years and done nothing. Its a massive elephant in the room no one is prepared to sort out. private providers pull out of contracts at short notice because they don't make enough profit despite running threadbare services. the best services are run by GPs. however they put in more expensive but realistic contracts and don't get them. glasgow have reaped what they have sown.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • OOH is something one does as a choice. if the choice is that you are being put at risk and poorly paid, I would d never blame doctors for not doing it. We set up Co-ops years ago because it was becoming unworkable. We have to be careful it is not just dumped back onto us though through the PCNs.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • In a free market system a sh**hole like this would more effectively entice workers with incentives to go work there. And if there was no capacity for offering incentives then the provider would either go bust or there would be no reason for the provider to exist due to lack of demand. Under a socialist/communist system there is no incentive to attract workers hence they don’t come! The zombie “provider” remains with no providers. Dead man walking

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

View results 10 results per page20 results per page

Have your say