Patients at Lerwick Health Centre will face shorter waiting times in future thanks to the forthcoming appointment of four advanced nurse practitioners (ANPs).
At last night’s annual NHS Shetland public health review, chief executive Ian Kinniburgh said the move would improve the situation and reduce long queues, He hoped it would stop people having to wait outside “in all weathers” to be seen by the walk-in clinic.
Head of health and social care Simon Bokor-Ingram said that following interviews this week, two ANPs were about to be appointed, and NHS chiefs were “hopeful” they had identified another.
The health centre would still be one short, but Mr Bokor-Ingram expected the fourth ANP would be in post by the end of the year.
He said: “This will provide a much better level of capacity. The ANP model has been well tried and tested both nationally and locally.”
Lerwick Health Centre already has some ANPs, who are educated to Masters degree level and have an advanced set of clinical skills. They are able to take a full medical history, assess and treat a patient, prescribe and plan follow-up treatment.
Earlier in the week, chief community nurse Edna Mary Watson said that the ANP model was the “way forward”.
NHS Shetland chief executive Ralph Roberts said ANPs were not the answer everywhere, but they were easier to recruit than GPs. The health board had continual problems attracting GPs and frequently lamented the cost of locums, which he described as “challenging”.
Mr Roberts said of appointing ANPs: “It’s not about saving money. The most important [thing] is that it is a sustainable model.”
Ms Watson said: “There is an inherent benefit in the ANP model in a large health centre like Lerwick with a very mixed economy of patients.”
Doctors would continue to treat very difficult cases, but ANPs could do a great deal, and would be backed up by GPs at all times.
Mr Kinniburgh said it was reassuring the initiative was “fully supported” by the health centre’s GPs, who recognised appointing ANPs would help patients be seen more quickly.
Mr Bokor-Ingram also mentioned other (physical) improvements to the health centre, installed in the wake of a patient survey.
Reception desks have been lowered and glass screens installed so that conversations are not overheard. A vending machine is now in the waiting area and this area will shortly be enclosed for greater privacy.