More Choice At GP Surgeries Across Forth Valley

Patients attending GP surgeries across Forth Valley are being offered more choice about who they can see, following the successful recruitment of a wide range of specialist health professionals to work alongside doctors.

The first 80 health professionals to begin working with NHS Forth Valley attended a recent induction day to promote team working. These include mental health nurses, pharmacists, physiotherapists and advanced nurse practitioners who will help free up GP time to deal with more complex cases.

This new way of working is in response to some of the requirements of the new GP contract. One in four GP posts in Scotland is currently vacant and these changes are designed to share the care and workload currently being experienced by family doctors.

Mental health nurses have already been offering support for patients with mild to moderate mental health problems in several GP practices across Clackmannanshire and Falkirk West. This scheme is now set to expand and more than half of the area’s GP practices will have mental health nurses in place by the end of 2019.

Pharmacists have also begun working in practices in Falkirk town centre and in North West Stirling. Work is underway to recruit another ten pharmacy posts for Stenhousemuir, Denny and Bonnybridge. The pharmacists will undertake medicine reviews, deal with repeat prescriptions and ultimately hold clinics.

The employment of mental health nurses and pharmacists forms part of NHS Forth Valley’s Primary Care Improvement Plan. Others developments include the appointment of ten advanced nurse practitioners who are currently under training, advanced physiotherapists, care home support nurses and practice nurse trainees. They will join the practice nurses, district nurses, health visitors, podiatrists and physiotherapists who already work together at GP practices to provide the best level of primary care.

In all, a total of 200 additional healthcare professionals are being recruited. Lesley Middlemiss, Programme Manager for Primary Care Transformation across Forth Valley, said: “This is a really good news story. The key issue for people is that there will be a broader range of expertise available at their local GP practice, helping with both diagnosis and the management of a wide range of conditions, medicine reviews and urgent appointments for new and existing illnesses.

“It’s a really positive move towards greater team working. This is not about replacing GPs,

who remain at the heart of primary care, but easing pressure and making sure that patients get the best help where they need it most.”

The NHS Forth Valley Primary Care Improvement Plan also brings about a major change in the way immunisations are delivered. The first step will see a new immunisation team deliver childhood vaccinations in a range of community facilities.  A pilot scheme in Clackmannanshire has seen children under five immunised at centres in Sauchie and Tillicoultry, an approach which is set to expand across Forth Valley.

NHS Forth Valley’s Associate Medical Director, Dr Stuart Cumming, added: “It’s important to acknowledge the hugely valuable work that our GPs do but also to recognise that many health issues can be managed using the skills of other professionals working alongside our existing Practice teams. Developing larger and more diverse primary care teams will help provide the best possible care for local patients and I’m pleased that the initial response to our recruitment drive has been very encouraging.”