Improvements are being made at the heavily criticised Lerwick Health Centre to cut waiting times for appointments and make for a more efficient service.
Healthcare assistants will now be able to take blood at the time the patient attends, usually without having to make another appointment.
This is the first of five key recommendations raised by the Shetland Public Partnership Forum (PPF) following a survey last year, which revealed widespread dissatisfaction with the centre, Shetland’s biggest, with around 900 patients.
PPF chairman Harold Massie called the fact one of the suggestions was being addressed a “very, very positive development”.
He said: “We asked for more co-ordination between different services, and a healthcare assistant will usually be there when patients are there.
“This is the first of our requirements to come to fruition, and we’re very pleased with the progress.”
This week the post of a practice manager to run the centre has been advertised – this was another recommendation from the PPF.
Additionally, the waiting area will be revamped with a television for people to watch, and the reception area will have more privacy with glass panels, and a lower desk for wheelchair users. Money has been found in the revenue budget for these measures.
A proposal is also being examined to provide a team of advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs) to work at the surgeries, backed up by a doctor. This would provide many more appointments and should ensure that everyone can be seen on the day.
Mr Massie said ANPs could do 80 per cent of what doctors could do, and four ANPs could deal with around 40 appointments a week.
The PPF is hoping that the fifth recommendation, for funding for evening and weekend surgeries, may also become reality.
However, this is hindered by government legislation, which forbids extra funding for practices, such as Lerwick’s, staffed by health board employees. Other isles practices are independent, and thus would qualify for the funding.
The PPF, which feeds public concerns into NHS Shetland, is pleased that the survey is producing results. In it, around 78 per cent of respondents said they were unhappy with the appointment system, with more than half waiting more than two weeks for a pre-booked appointment.
• See full story in tomorrow’s Shetland Times.