NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde has introduced an appointments system for its GP out-of-hours service.
Health bosses say the new permanent arrangement will help create a more “robust, reliable and sustainable service” by reducing waiting times, improving access and — during the coronavirus pandemic — ensuring social distancing can be observed at urgent primary care centres.
In addition to having a scheduled appointment, patients will also have the opportunity for telephone consultations with GPs.
Attend Anywhere, which allows for virtual consultations to take place, is being implemented across sites later this month, and, combined, the new arrangement means patients will have access to healthcare without having to travel to an urgent primary care centre.
The system, which has shown to be effective in other healthcare settings, launched this week.
Patients will now access a GP out-of-hours appointment by phoning NHS24 on 111. Acting as the first point of contact, NHS 24 will advise on the most appropriate care pathway.
This system mirrors the current Covid-19 care pathway in place for patients who require urgent primary care.
The new streamlined pathway means patients will either receive a telephone consultation from a clinician or will be asked to attend an urgent primary care centre at an allocated time.
NHSGGC’s patient transport service will also take people to and from the centres if required, and GP home visiting is also in operation for those who can’t travel.
Anyone who goes to an urgent primary care centre without an appointment will not be seen and instead will be asked to call NHS24. This is essential to prevent overcrowding in waiting rooms, which risks transmission of Covid-19.
The GP out-of-hours improvement plan was developed in collaboration with the Scottish Government and has the backing of Sir Lewis Ritchie who led a national review of the service.
Dr Kerri Neylon, deputy medical director for primary care, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said: “The appointment-only system plays a key role within a wider programme of service improvements for patients requiring urgent primary care and we’re pleased to see it being rolled out across Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
“We have fully integrated a telephone triage system into the patient care pathway, meaning, where appropriate, patients can speak to a GP over the phone, or, from the middle of June via a virtual consultation –- Attend Anywhere –- and, on many occasions, will not have to travel to an urgent primary care centre.
“With all patients being channelled through NHS24 as a first point of contact, we can ensure they are directed to the most appropriate type of care within the right environment, at the right time.
“The way we access urgent primary care is changing, and the new system underpins a wider exercise to ensure the whole of Greater Glasgow and Clyde has access to a safe, reliable and sustainable GP out-of-hours service which maximises resources and technology to deliver high-quality, person-centred care.”