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Scottish NHS helpline “may take GP calls during the day”

1 August 2007

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Staff at an NHS helpline in Scotland may soon be answering calls made to GP surgeries during the day to allow doctors to attend evening appointments.

NHS 24’s chief executive Sandy Forrest said its nurses could play a key role in realising the Scottish Executive’s aim of extending GP practice hours.

At the moment, some doctors already divert their phones to NHS 24 during the day if they are taking part in training activities.

But Mr Forrest believes extending NHS 24’s function could ease staffing problems within the organisation, making jobs more attractive by offering daytime shifts.

In an interview with the Herald, Mr Forrest said: “What there is the capacity to do is to use the infrastructure in hours to make a contribution, and at the same time provide a role that is interesting for nurses in a way that perhaps tackles the recruitment and retention issues.”

Pressure has been growing on GPs to extend their hours, with health secretary Nicola Sturgeon calling for doctors to be available at times that suit modern working and childcare arrangements.

However, a spokeswoman for BMA Scotland said: “Our primary concern is that NHS 24 focuses on delivering the emergency out-of-hours service it was created to deliver.

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

NHS 24

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