Tayside and Central Scotland

Protesters gather at GP out-of-hours debate

GP filling out medical form
Image caption Arrangement for out-of-hours GP cover changed radically in Scotland in 2004

Protesters have demonstrated at the Scottish Parliament as MSPs debated Scotland's out-of-hours medical cover.

It comes amid concerns that rural areas have been left without adequate medical help since GPs stopped working at evenings and weekends.

Many GPs choose to opt out of on-call arrangements under the terms of the 2004 GP contract.

Instead, local health authorities were charged with providing cover.

However, some rural communities have said the new arrangement has left them miles away from medical help once their local doctors surgery closes.

The Perthshire community of Kinloch Rannoch is taking NHS Tayside to court to force the health board to reintroduce an out-of-hours service, which ended in May 2006.

Among the protesters outside the parliament was Mervyn Shaw.

He is a resident of Kinloch Rannoch who has petitioned the court.

'Trust and confidence'

He said: "The daytime service is really excellent but in this remote community we really do need a local GP to be on call out-of-hours since medical emergencies can and do happen at any time."

The matter is being raised at Holyrood after a report by the Health and Sport Committee, earlier this year, called for an overhaul of the way out-of-hours healthcare is provided in remote and rural areas.

It found "trust and confidence" in the current system had been lost and called on NHS boards to devise new systems which met local needs.

The committee also backed a system being pioneered in the Borders which sees a GP service provided almost round-the-clock in accident and emergency departments.

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