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New primary care staff set to take pressure off GPs in Scotland

GP practices in Forth Valley are starting to see the impact of new primary care posts being put in place, almost a year after the new Scottish contract came into force, NHS officials have said.

Around 80 different health professionals – including pharmacists, physiotherapists and advanced nurse practitioners are now in post, NHS Forth Valley said.

And a pilot scheme placing mental health nurses in a handful of practices is now set to expand with half the GP practices in the area having access by the end of this year.

Ten additional GP pharmacists are currently being recruited to help practices manage medicines reviews and repeat prescription requests.

The eventual goal is that the pharmacists will hold their own clinics, the health board said.

Under the new contract, which was launched in April last year, some services, including vaccination and community treatment and care services will move to health boards.

Changes – including further negotiations over GP pay – are being put in place over a three-year period.

However, delays to a key workforce planning report from the Scottish Government has prompted fears there will not be enough staff to fill the primary care workforce teams.

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In Lothian, where the LMC was recently updated on progress made towards the contract, childhood vaccinations are expected to be removed from GPs by the end of this month.

There has also been work done on putting in place some new programmes with many practices now having a ‘few hours of additional staff time’.

In Edinburgh alone there are plans for 224 additional full time staff to provide a variety of services to GP practices, helping to relieve pressure on GPs, LMC members heard.

Lothian LMC chair Dr Drummond Begg said while lots of preparatory work had been done they expected to see the bulk of the change from the practices point of view over the next two years.

He said: ‘We anticipate more visible change with the significant increases in resource planned in years two and three.

‘Lothian Health Board, our four health and social care partnerships and GP sub-committee have been working collaboratively to ensure maximum benefit from the funding to provide staff in direct support of GPs.’

In Forth Valley, there are plans to recruit a total of 200 additional healthcare professionals to provide support to GP practices in the area.

Forth Valley programme manager for Primary Care Transformation Forth Valley Lesley Middlemiss said: ‘This is not about replacing GPs, who remain at the heart of primary care, but easing pressure and making sure that patients get the best help where they need it most.’