GP practices in Scotland are being encouraged by health boards to remain open during the Christmas bank holiday weekend to alleviate pressure on A&E services.
The College of Emergency Medicine Scotland has warned that patients are likely to experience longer waiting times and over-crowding as a direct result of the two bank holiday weekends.
NHS Lanarkshire offered financial incentives, paying practices £350 per day along with 10p for registered payments. As a result 28 practices (a third) will be opening on the 27 December and 3 January.
NHS Grampian contacted all GP surgeries asking them to consider offering some appointments over the festive break but only one agreed.
Dr Martin McKechnie, chair of the College of Emergency Medicine Scotland, said: “We have genuine concerns about the lack of alternative healthcare available to the population over these four-day periods.
“The reason for that is people will, as usual, vote with their feet and turn up at A&E as the only available healthcare to them.”
The board added: “We typically see a surge in the numbers of people using the (out-of-hours GP) service on the Saturdays following both Christmas Day and New Year.
“The additional Saturday opening times will improve access to GP services for patients on these days and help to reduce the pressure on the out-of-hours service”