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I agree that the current situation is not acceptable. I am aware of the challenges faced by Glasgow’s out-of-hours service. Out-of-hours services covering NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde are currently under review. As part of that, Glasgow is recruiting 70 salaried general practitioners to work in the service. Recruitment started in early September this year, and seven salaried GPs have so far been recruited. It is important that Glasgow continues recruiting at pace to fill those posts, and that the health board takes on board the advice that it commissioned from Sir Lewis Ritchie on how to deliver a more sustainable out-of-hours service.
Out-of-hours services at the Vale of Leven were closed for 128 days between January and September this year alone, and there have been more closures in October and November. In fact, the unit has been closed more often than it has been open, and there are also problems at Inverclyde and at the Royal Alexandra hospital in Paisley. The result is that people end up at accident and emergency when they do not need to go there, and waiting times increase. I am sure that the cabinet secretary will share my frustration that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde seems incapable of organising out-of-hours rotas. What can she do to ensure that this most basic of emergency services is provided in my local area?
Ms Baillie will recall that, when I visited Vale of Leven hospital with her and others, we had what I thought was a very productive discussion with local GPs about the work that they undertake currently and how they could expand it. I share her disappointment that we have not yet seen that approach realised, but I think that those local discussions are the route by which we can resolve some of the out-of-hours matters.
I could not agree more with Jackie Baillie that, if the out-of-hours service does not work, along with people going to the pharmacy first service and NHS 24, we see people appearing for appropriate unscheduled care at A and Es, as opposed to the current situation that is often driven by people not knowing where else to go.
Today in the chamber, I am prepared to make my commitment to Ms Baillie that I will not only pursue what I thought were productive discussions at the Vale of Leven but talk to NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde about the matter—and, of course, about other matters—and raise exactly how it proposes to improve the out-of-hours service and its delivery. I am happy to keep Ms Baillie updated on that.
Does the cabinet secretary consider that it is unacceptable that although GPs from Inverclyde are regularly used to cover elsewhere in the health board area, reciprocal arrangements do not seem to apply? Further, the most recent health board figures reveal that out-of-hours services closed 40 times in 2018, rising to 77 up to 17 November this year.
I do not consider it unacceptable that GPs across our cohort of areas, such as the NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde area, co-operate and help to cover for one another. What is not acceptable is if that is not reciprocal and co-operative. As I said in response to Ms Baillie, I will pick up the matter with NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde—and with the British Medical Association’s GP committee, with which I think that we have a productive relationship—to ask what more can be done to ensure that there is reciprocity and willingness to ensure cover across the piece. At the core of the issue is fixing the out-of-hours service in Greater Glasgow and Clyde.