Page last updated at 13:58 GMT, Tuesday, 9 February 2010

GP appointment system in Scotland frustrating

Generic GP writing prescription
The report found frustration with the appointment system

The current GP appointment system is a "frustration" for doctors and patients, a report for the British Medical Association (BMA) in Scotland has said.

Doctors, charities and the public said a more flexible approach to appointments should be a top priority for the service in future.

Patients have also called for better access to GPs via e-mail and telephone.

The BMA said research was needed to understand why demand for frontline health services was rising.

The report said: "Demand across all services, NHS 24, A&E and Scottish Ambulance Service is increasing. This continued rise in demand must be addressed.

Going back to old styles of working with GPs controlling other members of the healthcare team is not an option
Theresa Fyffe
Royal College of Nursing in Scotland

"In order to do so, it is important to understand why patients are seeking more support out-of-hours and the decision-making process they undertake when contacting an out-of-hours service."

The report points to 1.55 million A&E visits in 2006/07, up 50,000 on the previous year.

Holyrood's health and sport committee is investigating the availability of out-of-hours care in rural areas.

The report also said there was a "lack of awareness" that telephone helpline service NHS 24 is the "first point of contact" for non-urgent out-of-hours care.

"The Scottish government should commission research on the beliefs that underpin decisions to contact out-of-hours services and why demand is rising," it said.

'Commercial companies'

Dr Dean Marshall, chairman of the BMA's Scottish GPs committee, said general practice in Scotland was at a crossroads.

He said: "The Scottish Parliament has demonstrated a commitment to the NHS by passing legislation to ban commercial companies from providing NHS GP services.

"We welcome this commitment to a publicly provided and delivered service, and believe that this signals an opportunity to develop a clear policy direction for the future of general practice in Scotland."

Theresa Fyffe, director of the Royal College of Nursing in Scotland, said community healthcare services should be designed "around the needs of patients, not the needs of healthcare professionals".

She added: "Community health and general practice services must meet the needs of today's and tomorrow's communities but while public finances are under pressure, going back to old styles of working with GPs controlling other members of the healthcare team is not an option."

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