Can the Lanark area’s GP practice cope with half the doctors it once had, serving a growing, ageing population?
The answer to that question is “Yes” according to Gayle Wylie. the recently-appointed practice manager at Lanark’s Woodstock Medical Centre.
However, patients will have to accept and embrace a whole new way of using the local frontline services of the NHS.
Lanark Community Council heard this when Ms Wylie delivered an update on how the Woodstock practice is performing after a sometimes troubled period under the Lanark Doctors banner.
She directly answered council members’ concerns, including those about the practice’s new telephone appointments/triage system.
Formerly patients could phone during one of two daily appointments periods, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Now there is just a single morning appointments session.
She said that this was basically down to recognising the reality that a practice that once had ten doctors now had only five.
With such a small team, there was little point in overloading it by having two appointments sessions; she admitted that even the single appointments sessions had to be suspended some days when a full roster of GPs wasn’t available. Doctors, she reminded the meeting, get sick too.
However, Ms Wylie said that she hoped that steps being taken such as the expensive but necessary use of locum doctors would see these GP shortage suspensions decrease. More and more, she explained, the practice’s growing team of Advanced Practice Nurses were dealing with ailments formerly dealt with by GP’s. This was not, she stressed, some sort of ‘second class’ service as these nurses were trained in certain specialities which made them more appropriate than a General Practitioner to deal with. The meeting also heard from an NHS Lanarkshire representative: “Doctors are now for complex cases.Three quarters of the time people go to see a doctor, they don’t really need to see an actual GP.”