The majority of out of hours primary care could be provided by community nurses and nurse practitioners, Scottish politicians have been told.
A report by the Scottish Parliament’s health and sport committee highlights the role community nurses and nurse practitioners could play in providing out of hours primary care.
The committee was told the Grampian Out of Hours Medical Service used a team of advanced nurse practitioners to deal with remote and rural areas and, since 2004, only one patient had said they preferred to be seen by a doctor.
The service’s lead nurse, Linda Harper, told the committee: “As far as the six dimensions of quality are concerned, we certainly provide safe, effective, efficient and person centred care, which for patients is the most important thing.”
The scheme is now the subject of research commissioned by the Department of Health in England, which the committee reported was expected to find approximately 70 per cent of patients could be dealt with out of hours by multiprofessional teams, supported by GPs and telemedicine.
Out of hours provision in the UK was mostly given up by GPs in 2004. In England, the responsibility for filling the gap was handed to primary care trusts leading to concerns about the use of overseas doctors and nurses.
Concerns about access to primary care out of hours have also been raised in Scotland, particularly in remote rural areas.
Royal College of Nursing primary care adviser Lynn Young told Nursing Times that England should take note of the Scottish committee report. She said it was “ignorant” to view out of hours provision by nurses as being of poorer quality than that given by doctors, and it was about getting the “blend of nurses and medicine right”.
She said PCTs and politicians needed to “open [their] eyes, and look at what is working well”.