Nurses can be just as effective as GPs at providing out of hours care, especially in rural areas, says the Royal College of Nursing.
RCN Scotland director Theresa Fyffe told a Scottish parliament inquiry into rural out-of-hours provision last week that skilled nurses provided a viable alternative to GPs.
She said: “So long as patients are treated by healthcare professionals with the right skills and qualifications, their job titles are not important.
“Since 2004, the vast majority of GP practices have opted out of providing out-of-hours services. As a result flexible solutions to offering healthcare services have been found in many areas of Scotland,” she said.
“Highly qualified and skilled nurse practitioners have met this challenge and offer appropriate care and treatment to patients, particularly those in rural areas who do not have local GPs offering out-of-hours services,” she added.
The Scottish parliament’s health committee is conducting an inquiry into out-of-hours healthcare in Scotland’s rural communities.
An inquest in England is currently underway into the death of a Cambridge man given a fatal painkiller overdose by a German locum employed by a private OOH provider.
In response the Conservatives have said they would review NHS out-of-hours care if they won the election, with a view to forcing it back on GPs.
Shadow health secretary Andrew Lansley said the government had made a “serious error” in taking OOH responsibility away from GPs and that they should once again be made “collectively responsible” for it.