A new survey of GP in Scotland fails to reflect the positive impact that nurses can have in providing out of hours services, according to the Royal College of Nursing.
Results from Scotland’s 2013 primary care workforce survey were published earlier this month. The results, based on responses from 631 practices, showed little change in the registered nursing workforce since 2009.
For the first time the survey also gathered information on GPs working in out of hours services, which showed younger GPs tended to be much less involved in weekend and night work than older doctors.
But RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe suggested that, while the new survey was a positive move for collecting information, it should not be confined to GPs.
“We need clear evidence that we are developing the workforce with the necessary skills to deal with the increasingly complex conditions which are presenting in the community,” she said. “The primary care workforce survey and the pilot survey on GP out of hours services are welcome steps in the right direction to achieving this.
“But what the pilot GP out-of-hours survey doesn’t show is the real difference nurses are already making in out of hours care, for example, in areas such as Grampian,” she said.
Linda Harper, a lead nurse in NHS Grampian’s G-Med out-of-hours service, added: “One of the real benefits of having advanced practitioners working in out of hours care is that patients can be seen by the right professional at the right time in the right place.
“The end result is that patients who do not need to be treated in hospital get the care they need wherever they are.”
The workforce survey found an estimated 2,125 registered nurses, including nurse practitioners, were employed by Scottish general practices in January – equating to an estimated whole time equivalents number of 1,420.
A report on the survey by NHS Scotland’s information services division said the nursing workforce estimates were “broadly, but not directly, comparable” with results from 2009 and any increase was likely to have been “very small.
However, it noted that the data excluded nurses employed by NHS boards who work in independent contractor practices.
Meanwhile, an estimated 875 healthcare assistants and phlebotomists were employed by Scottish general practices in January, compared with an estimated headcount for January 2009 of 725.
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