Scottish GPs told to close for eight days over Christmas
By Steve Nowottny
NHS bosses in Scotland have ordered every GP practice in the country to close its doors for eight days over the Christmas period – despite warnings from GP leaders that the move risks causing chaos.
A country-wide order to close practices from December 25-28 and January 1-4 inclusive was issued after the Scottish Government decided having some practices open and other closed would be ‘confusing' for patients.
But GP leaders said some practices had been willing to stay open over the Christmas period, and warned a blanket closure would stretch urgent care services to breaking point.
Dr Dean Marshall, chair of GPC Scotland, said: ‘There's quite a few GPs who would be happy to help out over that period, working sessions, out-of-hours, perhaps their surgeries, and the Government has chosen not to even have any discussions.
‘They try and work on the least number off doctors possible, and actually what that does is it means the service is completely stretched. A couple of years ago the same sort of thing happened, and it was chaos.'
NHS 24, which handles out-of-hours calls for GP practices in Scotland, said it expected to answer more than 136,000 calls between 15 December and 4 January – up 15% from last year.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: ‘GP practice opening times have arisen due to public holidays falling just before weekends. We did not want to create inconsistency by altering this statutory arrangement and there has been no approach to us about doing so.'
In England, a Department of Health spokesperson said Christmas opening hours would be agreed locally between practices and PCTs.Dr Dean Marshall: Christmas closures risk causing chaos Dr Dean Marshall: Christmas closures risk causing chaos