Staff shortages hit Airdrie out-of-hours GP services

12% of weekend & evening GP shifts in Lanarkshire going unstaffed amid recruitment & retention challenges

Wednesday 12th June 2019

Out-of-hours GP services in Airdrie have had to close twice this year because of a shortage of doctors – and 12 times last year.

Patients needing to see a doctor were instead offered a home visit or a taxi to the out-of-hours centre in Hamilton.

Approximately 12% of weekend and evening GP shifts in Lanarkshire could not be filled each month, a report produced by South Lanarkshire health and social care partnership reveals.

The partnership tells it makes “every effort” to keep both centres open but says there are national and local challenges in finding staff to work nights and weekends.

A 2015 national review of out-of-hours GP services led to services in Lanarkshire being provided at two hubs in Airdrie and Hamilton.

Hamilton urgent care resource hub hosts a team including GPs, mental health nurses and pharmacists, as well as call handlers, cars and drivers, while Airdrie has GP and nursing staff.

GPs either work for the health board or work one-off sessions arranged directly or through an agency.

Although the new approach led to a ‘significant improvement, difficulties recruiting enough GPs – which are being experienced across Scotland – led health bosses to close the Airdrie centre twice this year to ‘ensure patient and staff safety’.

In an attempt to smooth recruitment difficulties, GP pay in Lanarkshire has been increased to be in line with the rest of the west of Scotland and doctors are using more virtual consultations.

There are also moves to increase the number of nurse practitioners in the out-of-hours team.

Marianne Hayward, head of health and social care at South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “There are currently challenges nationally and locally with the provision of staff to work in out of hours services. In Lanarkshire, we are working to address these issues and make every effort to keep both the Airdrie and Hamilton centres open. On some occasions for patient safety our out of hours service in Hamilton has provided a service for the whole of Lanarkshire.

“Hamilton is our main Out of Hours Hub and is fully resourced to provide a high level of out of hours care, as well as including additional specialist staff such as advanced nurse practitioners, paediatric nurses and community psychiatric nurses. We can provide transport in certain circumstances or arrange a house call should travelling to Hamilton be an issue for any patient.

“I would also like to remind patients that they can visit NHS inform at and/or NHS 24 on 111 to ensure they are able to access the most appropriate level of care.”