Out-of-hours care response times are best in Scotland

Out-of-hours GPs had been based at The Knoll but staff shortages meant NHS Borders had to take emergency measures and centralise the service
Out-of-hours GPs had been based at The Knoll but staff shortages meant NHS Borders had to take emergency measures and centralise the service

Nine of the ten comments NHS Borders received from community councils about their out-of-hours service proposals came from Berwickshire.

Most of those comments focused on the distance between Berwickshire and Borders General Hospital where the out-of-hours service is based and the possibility of going elsewhere - Dunbar or Berwick.

“We now have one of the best performing out-of-hours services in Scotland,” Edwina Cameron, interim director of Borders health and social care integration at last week’s Berwickshire Area Forum.

And when asked why NHS Borders was pushing ahead with formalising the one site service when the Scottish Government was undertaking a nationwide review of ou-of-hours services, Mrs Cameron added: “The minister is looking at our service. They see it as a bit of a model service.”

She added: “We are using a different workforce, nurses and other health professionals and other’s skills in a more efficient way and have to give them some security of tenure. It takes up to 18 months to train for the enhanced skills so we need to predict demand 18 months down the line.”

However, those representing eastern Berwickshire communities and the Lammermuirs remained unconvinced that they were receiving a good enough out-of-hours service. It wasn’t just medical staff response times they were concerned about but delayed telephone call backs from NHS 24 and ambulance response times which Eyemouth GPs have also flagged up.

Residents were travelling to the BGH themselves rather than waiting for a nurse or GP to get back to them, and there were anecdotes of stroke and cardiac patients in the Cockburnspath area waiting up to 40 minutes for an ambulance.

Both Mrs Cameron and Dr Sheen MacDonald promised to look at NHS 24 data to see when this happened and following comments made by community councils also said they would be having further discussions with Northumberland and Lothian health boards about supporting Berwickshire patients.