In August and September 2013 the Shetland Public Partnership Forum (PPF) carried out a survey among patients of the Lerwick Health Centre to establish the cause of much concern over the service being provided.
An amazing 908 people responded to the survey and the message was clear, 78 per cent were unhappy with the appointment system and 73 per cent were unhappy with the walk-in clinic.
The PPF raised four cases for change: the appointment of a dedicated practice manager; better team working; improvements in the amenities; and surgeries outside of normal office hours.
There have been improvements to amenities within the centre which are ongoing and two issues are outstanding: practice manager and the out-of-hours service, both of which are still being pursued.
The better team working case has resulted in two main initiatives, firstly as from last autumn health care assistants have been reorganised to provide more responsive assistance to the general practitioners (GPs). Specifically this has meant that when blood samples have to be taken the patient can have this done straight away rather than having to make a separate appointment.
The second change resulting from this case comes into effect from Monday. As from this date all patients with an acute (short-term) illness will be given an appointment with an advanced nurse practitioner (ANP).
Also from this date there will no longer be any walk-in clinics at the Lerwick Health Centre. Anyone phoning the surgery and needing to be seen on that day will be given an appointment with an advanced nurse practitioner.
There are four new ANPs joining Joan Sandison who has been providing an advanced nursing service for many years. Together they will be able to see up to 100 patients each day which should cope with the number of patients needing seen without them having to wait for hours.
The Public Partnership Forum has worked with the GPs, staff and management at both the Lerwick Health Centre and more widely across NHS Shetland to bring about this change.
This is a major change to the way healthcare is delivered in Lerwick and we urge patients to give the new service their support. Inevitably it will take a little time for the new appointment system and the ANPs to settle in, please be patient.
The GPs have not gone away. There will always be at least one doctor in the health centre whenever there are ANPs taking clinics. The ANPs work under very strict guidelines and should the initial assessment of a patient indicate that a doctor needs to be consulted there will be one immediately available to do so.
If a doctor is called in to see a patient with an ANP the doctor can give guidance to the ANP or even take over the consultation. General practitioners will continue to be available for any patient who needs a home visit and for treating patients who have complex or chronic health needs.
The Public Partnership Forum wishes all the staff at the Lerwick Health Centre much success as they undertake this new way of working and we welcome the new advanced nurse practitioners.
Public Partnership Forum