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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.


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