Public urged to phone 111 before showing up to GP Out of Hours

Sharp spike in unscheduled attendances putting model at risk

Following an increase in the number of attempted walk-ins at GP Out of Hours centres, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde is urging patients to call NHS24 and not turn up at GP Out of Hours sites without an appointment to help preserve the safety of other patients and staff in the context of COVID-19 and to ensure the model can operate effectively. 

The service moved to appointments only in June 2020 as part of a wider remodelling to create a more reliable and sustainable out of hours offering which can effectively manage footfall and reduce waiting times for patients. This is particularly crucial in the context of COVID-19, where the model has helped to prevent overcrowding in waiting rooms, and ensure those who need to be seen by a GP, Nurse or Advanced Nurse Practitioner can receive an allotted appointment or are signposted to a more appropriate service, which may not always be the Out of Hours service.

However, in recent weeks, the number of unscheduled walk-ins has increased across urgent care centres, putting the system at risk by preventing clinicians from seeing patients who have gone through the appropriate channels. 

Pauline Burke, Advanced Nurse Practitioner at the GP Out of Hours service at The New Victoria Hospital in Glasgow, said: 

“If you need urgent primary care, out of hours, you have to be allocated an appointment. We can’t accept walk-ins with no notice as this puts our staffs’ and our patients’ safety at risk due to COVID-19. This also causes disruption to the model which relies on people going through NHS24 first so that they can be appropriately managed and scheduled.

“We implemented the appointment model to improve the service and to ensure people who need to be seen out of hours are able to do so. It is also there to make sure if there’s a more appropriate service for the public to use, that they are referred on to that service, rather than putting unnecessary pressure on our out of hours staff.”

Attending a GP in person may not always be the best option for patients, and by phoning 111 and going through NHS24 means they can be properly assessed and offered a range of other treatment options which could include a GP home visit, a virtual consultation, or, be signposted to a more appropriate service such as the pharmacy.