We are seeing some really positive changes in primary care, with an emphasis on getting the right care in the right place. For example, NHS pharmacy first Scotland is an excellent service that allows pharmacy teams to provide advice, treatment and referrals. However, people are really struggling to get appointments with their GP. Can the cabinet secretary outline some of the wider work that is being done to improve primary care and how that modernisation will continue to benefit patients? With regard to GP practices, can the cabinet secretary set out how standards are set and monitored, including on the ease of booking appointments, and what opportunities members of the public have to give feedback?
The member raises an important issue on behalf of her constituents. As I mentioned in response to an earlier question, we have seen a significant expansion in the primary care team, with more than 3,000 additional staff being recruited to support primary care. That includes staff with a health practitioner background. We want to continue to see that expand as we move forward.
I am also aware of the services that are offered by the wider primary care network, such as through pharmacists and opticians, all of which can have a positive impact on the way in which patients can access particular services in their locality.
The member might also be aware that the former Cabinet Secretary for Health and Social Care set up the general practice access group, which is looking at some of the key principles around access to general practice. That work is on-going and we expect to receive that report in the coming months. I hope to be in a position to publish it in the summer.
The member will also be aware that, as independent practitioners, practices have to have arrangements in place that ensure that they comply with the GP contract in their health board area and that they ensure access to patients. Therefore, any patient who is concerned about access to their GP service can raise it with them directly or via their health board. It is important that GP practices provide access to patients so that they can make appointments as and when is necessary.
The cabinet secretary will be well aware of the problems that Lanarkshire’s accident and emergency units have been having. In March, only 57.2 per cent of patients in Lanarkshire were seen within four hours, and at University hospital Hairmyres in East Kilbride the figure was 52.3 per cent. That is against the national target of 95 per cent. Staff have been up against it for months, so what is the cabinet secretary going to do to help them to reach the national target?
The health board is taking forward a range of work, which I am sure that the member will be aware of. For example, recent fire break work was done to improve capacity in the
A and E department and help with the flow of patients through the hospital. That has had some positive impact, and we hope to see further progress.
Alongside that, the Government is providing support and guidance to boards to ensure that they are doing everything that they can to improve the flow of patients, which has an impact on A and E performance. That includes the use of the