Ministers have said ensuring the NHS in Scotland provides a consistent quality of care round the clock care will be given renewed focus in 2014.
A taskforce will meet early this year to “drive forward” focused improvements in the services available out of hours, particularly at the weekends, said Scottish health secretary Alex Neil.
He said he recognised care was delivered “differently at 3am in the morning compared to 3pm in the afternoon” or on a “Thursday compared to a Sunday”.
“Changes towards 24/7 care are already happening in some areas, but we want to accelerate the pace of change, by targeting enhanced weekend and out of hours services that will benefit patients the most,” Mr Neil said.
“That is why I am setting up a taskforce made up of senior leaders in the Scottish Government and NHS Scotland to work together with key stakeholders, to drive forward these changes,” he said.
“This group will meet soon after the new year, and I will expect to see progress from them on how they will agree and implement the changes required to make this vision a reality.”
He added: “A key part of this issue is how patients flow through the hospital, and that is why we are investing £4m to test innovative approaches from across the world in that area.”
Ellen Hudson, Royal College of Nursing Scotland associate director, said: “I’m pleased that the cabinet secretary has announced a taskforce to look at improving care out of hours. However, there needs to be a whole system approach.”
“Without having appropriately trained nursing and other community health staff – and indeed, social care staff – however improved our hospital care gets, people could still get stuck in hospital, or could be readmitted as a result of not getting the support they need at home,” she said.
She added: “The latest NHS workforce statistics published in November show that the gap between the number of nurses health boards say they need and staff actually in post is widening.”
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