An ambitious plan to shake-up everyday health services in Lanarkshire is to be piloted thanks to a £4.5 million boost.
The Primary Care Transformation programme aims to radically transform how services are accessed and delivered in the area over the next five to 10 years.
Its aim is for patients to get the right service as quickly as possible, with more same-day services and developing urgent care services.
It comes as the Scottish Government attempts to tackle recruitment issues and increased demand in primary care and make it more sustainable for the future.
An over-arching principle of the Lanarkshire plan will be creating multi-disciplinary teams made up of a variety of health care professionals meaning patients will only have to see a GP if they really need to.
It is hoped this approach will allow a “workload rebalance”, easing pressure on family doctors.
There will also be a strong focus on round-the-clock health care in the community through face-to-face meetings, telephone consultations or web services, reducing the need to go to hospital.
The £4.5 million grant, from the Scottish Government’s £85 million Primary Care Fund, will allow test sites to be set up in East Kilbride and Coatbridge in the coming weeks and months.
These sites, in GP surgeries, will bring together nurses, mental health professionals, pharmacists and physiotherapists to manage patient care.
Over the next nine months, officials will analyse what works best in the hope of rolling out the new way of working to other areas.
Dr Chris Mackintosh, medical director, South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership said: “This programme brings together several key themes that will transform how patients access primary care services.
“Teams and specialist support will be in place so that you will see the right health care professional to meet your needs and will only have to see a GP if you really need to.
“This approach will allow us to provide more care in community settings.
“While the tests are being carried out in East Kilbride and Coatbridge initially, we will see the benefits being rolled out across Lanarkshire with the new GP contract in 2017 and the updated contract in 2020.”
One of these key themes will be the development of eHealth which will allow people to digitally manage their own care.
An example of how this could work in practice: a patient who may have had to call to book an appointment and then visit the surgery to see a GP could in future log on to a website to book an eConsultation.
The patient could also order repeat prescriptions, view results and send messages to staff on line.
However, NHS Lanarkshire said the specifics of how it will work are still being developed.
Craig Cunningham, head of health, South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership, said: “It is essential we develop new and creative ways to deliver services if we are to provide the best possible care and close the gap between those with the best opportunity for good health and those with the greatest health inequalities.
“This project is an exciting opportunity to meet this challenge in Lanarkshire by testing new ways of working that have the potential to transform how people access primary care services.
“We are delighted to be at the forefront of this work which will make the best use of our staff’s specialist skills to deliver improved care and outcomes for our patients.”
Health Secretary Shona Robison said: “Our £85 million Primary Care Fund is allowing us to work effectively with GPs to design services that are both fit for the future and meet the needs of the people of Scotland.
“The Lanarkshire test sites are at the forefront of the transformation – helping patients see the right person at the right time by bringing together a range of health professionals on one site.
“GPs play a central role in supporting people to live well within our communities.
“By developing multi-disciplinary teams we will help our GPs focus on the patients who would benefit from their assessment and ensure everyone sees a skilled professional as quickly as possible.”