Lerwick Health Centre will be launching a new service on Monday in which patients who need to be seen will be attended to on that day.
It is hoped the Advanced Nurse Practitioner Service will reduce long waiting times and improve access to services.
Four new staff members who are trained advanced nurse practioners (ANP)s, will join the health centre, working alongside ANP Joan Sandison, who has worked at the health centre for many years and will become the lead ANP.
The five practitioners between them will see all patients who need to be seen on the day, whether for an acute problem or minor illness or ailment. The service will replace the walk-in clinic.
The ANPs are experienced senior nurses with advanced clinical skills who can diagnose and prescribe. They can take a full medical history, carry out physical assessments and examinations, carry out treatment, plan follow up treatment and refer patients for investigations where appropriate.
The ANPs will have access to the centre’s GPs for advice and support and will consult them as needed.
Should an ANP be unable to deal with the problem they are faced with, they will refer the patient immediately to a GP.
This initiative was proposed by and is supported by the health centre staff, as well as the patients’ group Public Partnership Forum (PPF).
NHS Shetland medical director Roger Diggle, (who also practices as a GP at Lerwick Health Centre), said: “This is an important step for the service we provide and is intended to respond to the long running concerns by the local community. Implementing a frontline service by ANPs will allow GPs to be more available for those patients who need a home visit and to concentrate on treating those patients who have complex or chronic health needs.
“This will help to create better access to services for those who need to be seen on the day, as well as for those individuals who need to be able to make a pre-booked appointment with a specific practitioner.”
Chairman of the PPF is Harold Massie, whose group carried out a survey which found a high level of dissatisfaction with the appointment system and in particular the walk-in clinic at the Lerwick Health Centre. A subsequent clinical audit carried out by the GPs identified that most people who needed to be seen on the day had a condition that could be seen by an ANP.
Mr Massie said: “Adding the ANPs to the medical staffing at the Lerwick Health Centre will bring many more appointments and remove the need for the walk-in clinic.”
Chief nurse Edna Mary Watson said: “The overall aim of implementing the ANPs is to enhance the service available for patients at the Lerwick Health Centre. Through the additional staffing capacity available it is hoped that patients will be able to get their health needs addressed more quickly by the right practitioner and therefore the public will see an overall improvement in access to all services.”
Appointments with the advanced nurse practitioners can be made by contacting the health centre. Appointments can be booked up to 48 hours in advance.
• More in Friday’s Shetland Times.