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Rural healthcare does not meet community needs – MSPs

26 April 2010

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Out-of-hours healthcare for people in remote areas needs to be overhauled because it is not good enough, MSPs have claimed.

A report produced by a Scottish Parliament committee said NHS boards must devise better systems to meet the needs of local people.

Holyrood’s Health and Sport Committee backed a system being pioneered in the Borders, which sees a GP service provided almost round-the-clock in accident and emergency departments.

The report said: “We are concerned that trust and confidence in the out-of-hours service have clearly been lost. There remains, therefore, a substantial degree of work to be done to rebuild confidence. This can only be achieved when the system can be depended on to work properly, which will require out-of-hours services to be fully joined up, which they are not currently.”

Health boards must organise “specific, sustainable and often innovative arrangements” to meet their communities’ needs.

A GP contract signed in 2004 allowed doctors to opt out of providing a 24-hour service, which is now provided by a combination of GPs, doctors, nurses and paramedics.

The health call centre NHS 24 now handles about 90% of out-of-hours calls – original government predictions put this figure at 60%.

Health Secretary Nicola Sturgeon had told the committee previously that regarding NHS 24 as an out-of-hours service was a “big misconception”. Instead, it prioritises patients and refers them to other services, she said.

Copyright © Press Association 2010

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