GP opening hours in Scotland should be extended, a new parliamentary committee report has recommended.
But GP leaders said the proposals would be ‘dispiriting’ for over-stretched GPs and that lengthening opening hours would not be enough to address access issues without meaningful recruitment.
The Scottish Parliament Health and Sport Committee has recommended that GP access must be improved in order to make services more ‘patient-centred’, following consultations with the public.
In a report, published yesterday, it said: ‘We were told primary care should take on a more patient-centred approach, e.g. having more flexible appointment systems for working people (evening/weekend appointments).
‘There was some frustration that the current service delivery model seems more to serve the health professionals rather than the services users and adverse comparisons were made with virtually every other service sector.’
It added that ‘patient-centred approaches’ are used ‘least’ in GP practices and that ‘the days of the nine to five service, five days a week in primary care should be consigned to history.’
The report, which looked at ‘what is required to meet the public visions of a patient-centred approach’, also outlined:
- More ‘personalised’ relationships with healthcare professionals are ‘preferable’;
- A ‘desire’ for an electronic patient record to be shared with ‘all relevant health professionals’;
- Concerns around divulging personal medical information to non-clinical staff such as receptionists;
- ‘Frustrations’ around having to call practices to make appointments and order repeat prescriptions and a ‘desire’ to communicate with doctors via email;
The report concluded: ‘Current delivery methods and models are financially unsustainable, they have not kept pace with modern living.
‘Primary care requires radical revision to ensure our citizens receive the primary care they want, need and require for the next generation and beyond.’
BMA Scottish GP Committee chair Dr Andrew Buist called the report ‘simply wrong’, pointing out that daytime GP opening hours are eight to six in Scotland and that out of hours services operate 24/7.
He added: ‘Across Scotland, GPs are stretched to the limit, working as hard as possible to meet ever rising demand. They face having to deal with complex issues in short appointments and without the time to truly provide the care every patient needs.
‘Simply suggesting that they need to work longer hours to meet this demand will be very dispiriting to the profession currently on the frontline of dealing with Covid-19.’
Dr Buist said: ‘It also seems contradictory to propose GPs work longer hours to meet demand, while also suggesting reconsidering plans to recruit extra GPs.
‘We can and must do both – the Scottish Government recognised we are short of GPs and has committed to expanding primary care funding, and providing an additional 800 GPs by 2027, and both of these commitments must be realised.’
And joint RCGP Scotland chair Dr David Shackles said: ‘GPs and the wider multidisciplinary primary care team work exceptionally hard day in, day out, to meet the varied and complex needs of their patients.
‘While we agree that improvements can and should be made to ensure that primary care can deliver patient-centred care now and in the future, it is simply not the case that this will be achieved by extending the opening times of GP surgeries.’
He added: ‘This recommendation by the committee also does not reflect the hard work of our colleagues in the out of hours service who ensure that primary care in Scotland is available to patients 24 hours a day, seven days a week.’
Lothian LMC took to Twitter to express concerns about the ‘insulting’ report.
It comes as practices in Scotland are supporting the Covid vaccination programme – which is being led by health boards – based on their capacity to do so.
Scotland has also called in the British army to set up vaccination centres, in an exercise that was branded the ‘largest peacetime resilience operation ever undertaken by the UK Armed Forces’.