Out-of-hours service back on NHS agenda

Out-of-hours GP services used to operate out of The Knoll Hospital, Duns, as well as Hawick and Kelso
Out-of-hours GP services used to operate out of The Knoll Hospital, Duns, as well as Hawick and Kelso

Any permanent change to how out-of-hours GP services operate in the Borders will have to reflect how the service operates nationally following a Scotland-wide review.

NHS Borders is keen to establish as permanent the centralised out-of-hours service in place since January 2014.

A shortage of GPs to provide medical cover during evenings, overnight and weekends across the Borders prompted NHS Borders to put an emergency plan into place, removing out-of-hours GPs from Kelso, Duns and Hawick and centralising the service at Borders General Hospital.

Response figures over the months convinced NHS Borders that this should be a permanent solution but as it moved towards confirming it the Scottish Government announced a national review of out-of-hours services.

Lammermuir Community Council was one of ten community councils to express concern that NHS Borders was pushing on with the plan to make the out-of-hours service changes permanent and chairman Mark Rowley has been communicating with the Scottish Government on the matter.

A recent response from Liam Kearney, performance management officer with the Directorate for Population Health Improvement, said: “Whilst it is the responsibility of NHS boards to design, implement and monitor delivery of services, including those delivered out-of-hours to their populations, the cabinet secretary for health, wellbeing and sport requires to approve any changes which are deemed to be a material change to that service.

“Ms Robison expects any NHS board reviews which may be on-going to be aware of the National Review and that any suggested changes are aligned with the outcomes of the National Review.”

On receiving that response Mr Rowley said: “We are delighted that the health secretary has confirmed that whatever local reviews into out-of-hours care are underway across Scotland she expects their outcomes to reflect those of the current national review.

“We have repeatedly warned the board of NHS Borders that in their rush to make their temporary changes permanent they risk losing any benefits that may come out of the national review or require the process to be wastefully repeated.

“We look forward to hearing the Scottish Health Council comments and hope that they agree with the minister that it would be unwise of NHS Borders to rush through any changes before they can take advantage of the national reviews findings.”

NHS Borders board is due to meet today, Thursday, April 2, and the out-of-hours service is expected to be on the agenda.