Cumbernauld snubbed in out-of-hours service shake-up

Written by Scott Campbell, Cumbernauld Media's Senior Reporter.

Published at 02:47 on 29 May 2015


NHS Lanarkshire confirm that the national review will shape future services. Logo: NHS Lanarkshire.

NHS Lanarkshire has announced that the recommendations from the Scottish Government’s recently commissioned report into national out-of-hours primary care services will be fully implemented in Lanarkshire.

Calum Campbell, NHS Lanarkshire’s Chief Executive has cited patient safety concerns surrounding the current service as the reason for the announcement. 

The decision was made at a meeting of NHS Lanarkshire’s board on Wednesday (27th May), with members agreeing not only that the recommendations from the national out-of-hours review would be implemented in Lanarkshire, but that the local out-of-hours review would not conclude until after the national review reports.

Due to patient safety concerns regarding the current service, which are giving cause for concern, the Board agreed to augment its current business continuity arrangements to improve the service.

Commenting on the board’s decision, NHS Lanarkshire’s Chief Executive, Calum Campbell, said: “Patient safety is the most important consideration in moving this matter forward. We are committed to implementing the national recommendations on out-of-hours services, but need to introduce enhanced interim measures to protect the safety of our patients. 

“Our own review has identified that we need to take urgent interim steps to improve access for patients assessed as requiring to be seen within one hour, as at present only 37 per cent of these patients are being seen within target. The implementation of the interim measures will significantly improve the performance and ensure a safe service is provided for patients. Continuous performance monitoring will take place,” he explained.

Mr Campbell added: “We very much appreciate all the comments we received from stakeholders throughout Lanarkshire during the consultation process. The Board is listening to these views to ensure they inform the future development of the service. This will include developing and introducing alternative service options such as extended pharmacy services and nurse-led services to increase public access to a variety of out-of-hours services and we will ensure there is public and staff involvement in taking these forward.

“The Lanarkshire out-of-hours service has been operating under business continuity arrangements for a considerable time. Even with these arrangements - which effectively mean that we have had no choice but to reduce the number of centres open depending on the number of doctors willing to work the out-of-hours shifts - providing a safe and effective service for patients has proved challenging.

“Our business continuity arrangements need to be enhanced to improve patient safety pending the outcome of the national review.”

The Lanarkshire NHS chief confirmed that a two-centre model will be implemented in the interim, a move which was widely opposed by communities in the so-called northern corridor of North Lanarkshire.

“An interim service model based at Airdrie Health Centre and Douglas Street Clinic in Hamilton will provide opportunities to improve the safety of the current service,” Mr Campbell confirmed.

He added: “It will provide the optimum level of accommodation to expand the service in line with the feedback we have received through the consultation phase. The interim service will be kept under constant review and we will undertake a full review, with public involvement, within six months.

“When the national recommendations are known we will seek to implement these as soon as possible.”

This week’s announcement comes after NHS Lanarkshire launched a consultation into proposals that will alter the Primary Care Out-of-Hours service throughout Lanarkshire, on 6 January.

In a consultation that ran until 6 April, NHS Lanarkshire sought public opinion on two service models: one primary care out-of-hours centre at Douglas Street Community Health Clinic in Hamilton; or two primary care out-of-hours centres one of which would be in Airdrie Community Health Centre and the other in Douglas Street Community Health Clinic, Hamilton.

Accessed through the national NHS24 service 111, the Lanarkshire out-of-hours service is for urgent assessment and treatment at the evenings and weekends when GP practices are closed. The health board, however, has repeatedly said that the service is facing major challenges – mostly because of a lack of GPs willing to staff the service, which has been cited as a main reason for the proposed changes to the out-of-hours services in Lanarkshire.