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Last Updated: Monday, 30 July 2007, 15:38 GMT 16:38 UK
NHS 24 may take daytime GP calls
NHS 24
The move would mean an expansion of NHS 24's remit
Daytime calls to GP surgeries could be taken by the NHS 24 helpline to free up doctors for evening appointments.

The move is one of the options being considered by the Scottish Executive and bosses at the 24-hour helpline.

It could see nurses playing a key role in Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon's aim of extending GP practice opening hours.

Doctors already occasionally divert their phones to NHS 24 during the day to enable them to undertake training.

NHS 24 chief executive Sandy Forrest, who took up office in May, believes extending the helpline's remit could also ease internal staffing problems by offering daytime shifts.

Currently the service sees the bulk of its calls received outside traditional office hours.

We recognise that there may be an opportunity for NHS 24 to link in with delivering more flexible healthcare
Scottish Executive

At present less than 10% of staff work on a typical week day, with most deployed at evenings and weekends.

A spokesperson for NHS 24 said: "NHS 24 has a national infrastructure and daytime capacity which may have the potential to develop further.

"GP opening times is only one of a number of options that NHS 24 is exploring in relation to in-hours developments."

A spokeswoman for the executive said it was committed to providing a flexible service for patients.

She said: "GPs are a major provider of healthcare and it is important to work with them to deliver more flexible access at evenings and weekends.

"We recognise that there may be an opportunity for NHS 24 to link in with delivering more flexible healthcare and will be considering how this could be taken forward."

Extended services

A range of new NHS 24 services have been suggested, including a support line for patients with long-term health problems.

The possibility of nurses contacting patients to ensure they are fit and prepared for planned operations has also been discussed.

A spokeswoman for BMA Scotland said GPs had not been given details of proposals on extending surgery hours, but were happy to debate the issues.

She added: "Our primary concern is that NHS 24 focuses on delivering the emergency out-of-hours service it was created to deliver.

"It has taken a number of years for NHS 24 to iron out its initial problems and there is still room for improvement.

"We would like to make sure NHS 24 can deliver that service before it moves into other areas of healthcare."

NHS 24's Sandy Forrest explains the plans

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