Outpatient care changes on the way

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A Scottish Government plan was unveiled this week that will change how outpatient care is delivered.

Tha aim is to give patients faster and more local access to care, freeing up 400,000 hospital outpatient appointments by 2020.

Of the 4.5 million outpatient appointments delivered by the NHS in Scotland each year, 1.5 million are new appointments and three million are return appointments, either for follow-up care or a routine check-up.

The strategy proposes that some patients, particularly those who waiting for a routine check-up or test results, should be seen closer to home by a team of community healthcare professionals with close links to hospital departments.

The NHS will also make better use of e-consultations, and action will be taken to reduce the number of unnecessary referrals.

Scottish Government Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Our NHS must continually evolve to meet the increasing demands it faces.

“I am setting out a plan to ensure people get seen by the most appropriate health professional, often closer to home and ending many repeated, unnecessary trips to hospital.”

Shifting the balance from acute to community and primary health care will also see the NHS budget realigned with an extra £500m (11%) going into primary care over the next five years.

A statement from NHS Borders in response to the announcement said: “NHS Borders will receive £181,000 of the £10m additional funding that the Scottish Government has allocated to support improvements in outpatient waiting times.

“Plans are under way to establish how this funding will be used locally.”

Ms Robison continued: “This is not about giving more work to GPs or community nurses.

“Underpinning this plan is an aim for our community and hospital professionals to work more closely together, reducing unnecessary waste in the system and getting people seen by the right professional first time around.

“We will consult with staff and professional bodies to seek their views on this document and the future of outpatient care.

From 2017 onwards, GP practices and GP clusters will have “oversight and direct involvement” in improving the quality of care in current chronic disease management programmes and use of secondary care services ensuring the balance of care is appropriate, equitable and focused on care delivered where it needs to be.