Close to a million consultations took place in out-of-hours services in Scotland in 2014/15, in what has been described as a "looming crisis" by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, speaking at Holyrood.
According to figures released for the first time by the Information Services Division of the Scottish NHS, 997,112 consultations were carried out in out-of-hours settings. The majority of these took place in primary care emergency centres and primary care centres, with 56% of consultations carried out in these facilities, while 21% and 19% of consultations were in GP surgeries and home visits respectively.
The RCN in Scotland said that the figures show that the nursing workforce needs investment to ensure that nurses can continue to provide out-of-hours services. Norman Provan, the associate director of the RCN, said: 'Senior nurses working at an advanced level of nursing practice (ANPs) are already making a significant contribution in some parts of the country to effective out-of-hours care. Investment is needed now to make sure their potential, as part of a multidisciplinary team, is realised and that their expertise is shared right across the country.'
A total of 894,474 patients accessed out-of-hours primary care services in Scotland in 2014/15, with patients over the age of 75 representing nearly 20% of this, despite being a much smaller proportion of the population. The winter months tended to see a rise in the number of consultations, with 88,414 seen in January 2015, representing 9.9% of the total number of consultations. The lowest number of patient's seen was in October 2014, when 67,015 consultations were carried out, representing 7.5% of the total number.
Mr Provan added: 'Fundamentally, people need to be able to get the right care in the right place whenever they need it, whether that's at home, elsewhere in the community or in hospital.'