This site is intended for health professionals only

Out-of-hours service shut due to not enough GPs ‘willing to work’

Out-of-hours services were forced to shut in Greater Glasgow this month due to a shortage of GPs ‘willing to work’, with problems continuing.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde confirmed it had ‘no choice’ but to temporarily close the service at all but one of its centres between midnight on Saturday 1 June and 07:59 on Sunday 2 June, instead offering only home visits.

During last weekend, between 7 and 9 June, three OOH centres were closed ‘for a few hours’ at certain points, with three others also being shut for longer periods – though NHS Greater Glasgow claimed most of its nine centres were open the majority of time.

The BMA Scotland said it was ‘disappointed’ the service had to close, and that it demonstrated the ‘challenges being faced by primary care and indeed all health services’ in the country.

A spokesperson from NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said: ‘Due to a shortage of GPs willing to work we had no choice but to only provide a home visiting service on Saturday night between midnight and 07:59am on Sunday morning except for one centre at the Vale of Leven Hospital. We made every effort to fill this shift.’

The spokesperson added: ‘Over the weekend (7-9 June) the majority of our nine centres were open the majority of the time.

‘Centres in the New Victoria Hospital, Greenock Health Centre and Vale of Leven Hospital were closed for a few hours over the weekend.

‘The only centres which were closed for longer were Easterhouse Health Centre, the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital and Inverclyde Royal Hospital’s out-of-hours service.’

They said: ‘Patients should always contact NHS24 first and they will direct the patient to the most appropriate healthcare service for their needs after being fully assessed.’

BMA Scottish GP Committee chair Dr Andrew Buist said: ‘We are disappointed that an overnight out-of-hours GP service was unable to be provided in Greater Glasgow. It demonstrates the challenges being faced by primary care – and indeed all health services – right across the country.

‘Scotland is in the midst of a period of transition with regards to the recruitment and retention of GPs, and there is no quick fix to the long-standing problems we are facing. However, the Scottish GP contract that came into force last year is designed specifically to address inappropriate excessive workloads and improve recruitment and retention of GPs.’

He added: ‘We need to give the contract sufficient time to make the changes needed including the development of multidisciplinary teams that will ease the kind of pressures GPs report.:

Dr Buist said the changes would lead to more people choosing to be a GP, or staying in their job longer, ‘which is the only way that issues with out-of-hours care will be solved’.

Last summer it was revealed that OOH centres in Glasgow were closed on more than 100 occasions over a 12-month period due to a lack of GPs.

OOH services have been struggling in Fife as well, with cuts being made by the Scottish health board and Fife council to the opening hours.

Elsewhere in Wales, BMA Wales has warned the out of hours services has reached ‘crisis point’ from the shortage of OOH GPs.