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Give patients more details: experts

Patients should be better informed about who they can turn to if they require out of hours medical care, nursing and doctors leaders in Scotland have said.

Raising the standard of out-of-hours care is a priority for both medical professionals and politicians, the British Medical Association Scotland insisted.

Royal College of Nursing Scotland director Theresa Fyffe, speaking ahead of a debate on the issue at Holyrood, said there was no need to assume GPs must provide out-of-hours healthcare.

She said: "Since the vast majority of GPs have opted out of providing out-of-hours services, many health boards have found flexible solutions to provide high quality healthcare services using the skills of different healthcare professionals.

"Highly qualified and skilled nurse practitioners have risen to the challenge of providing healthcare overnight and at weekends, alongside other healthcare professionals, supported by NHS 24, GPs and telehealth."

Dr Andrew Buist, Deputy Chairman of the BMA's Scottish GP Committee, said more needed to be done to keep patients informed.

He said: "In today's modern service much more complex care is provided to patients in hours and there needs to be a comprehensive out of hours service that does not rely on over-tired GPs bearing the brunt of the work."

He continued: "NHS 24 has improved over the last few years, but more needs to be done to educate patients as to who to contact out of hours."

Dr Buist stressed: "Out-of-hours care encompasses all aspects of the health service - general practice, secondary care and community care, all of which can be accessed by first contacting NHS 24.

"More should be done to promote NHS 24 to the public as the first point of contact for non emergency calls out of hours."

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Royal College of Nursing Scotland