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Sustainable 24/7 NHS Update

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09 Mar 2015

 Enhancing the services provided in the community and empowering the whole healthcare team will help the NHS deliver more sustainable services 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

These are part of a range of proposals in an interim report of the Sustainability and Seven Day Services taskforce set up by the Scottish Government, which brings together stakeholders and experts on the health service.

The update finds that Scotland’s NHS already operates on a 24/7 basis across a range of services, but outlines next steps that will help further progress this agenda, and make it sustainable for the long term – including:

  • Diagnostics and interventions – exploring new models and improvements to out of hours diagnostic services, to enable more to happen at weekends and evenings, including more effective discharging of patients
  • Enhancing local services – exploring new models of care such as community hubs and greater use of community hospitals, with a view to developing pilots.
  • Empowering all members of the healthcare team to work to the full extent of their skills and capability, for example, supporting advance nurse practitioners to employ all their skills to make decisions on treatment and/or discharge to prevent hold ups in the system and allow it work more effectively and reviewing the role of district nurses.
  • Supporting the sustainability of our Rural General Hospitals by establishing formal links with urban hospitals around staffing – for example allowing medical staff in rural hospitals to maintain skills and continue professional development at larger urban centres in order to aid retention and recruitment.

Shona Robison, Cabinet Secretary for Health welcomed the report and said the Scottish Government had already made progress on the providing more 24/7 services, including through investments from the £31 million NHS performance fund.

This will enable increased diagnostic and elective work during the evenings and weekends through the first awards made to NHS Lothian and NHS Highland.

Ms Robison said:

“This is an important update from the experts we have brought together on the 24/7 taskforce. The work being done by the Taskforce is invaluable, substantial and will deliver real sustainable improvements for patients in Scotland. It is encouraging that the group find Scotland’s NHS already operates many services 7 days a week, 24 hours a day.

“The challenge is now is to progress this work to ensure that services out of hours are accessible, high quality and sustainable, both for those who require care in those periods and also for those in hospital who need support to move through their patient journey.

“While this is an interim report, on what is a complex and significant area, we are already making good progress. The link up between rural and urban hospitals, increasing diagnostics out of hours and the primary care out of hours review, all demonstrate our commitment to work towards a sustainable, 24/7 NHS in Scotland.

“We all know our NHS is facing considerable challenges of increased demand, with more patients with more complex illnesses. That is why we have increased health spending to beyond £12bn for the first time, but we need to use these resources as effectively as possible and also look at delivering new models of care. That is exactly what the work of the taskforce is considering and I look forward to seeing further progress.”

John Burns, Chair of NHS Scotland’s Chief Executives, who sits on the taskforce said:

“The work of the Taskforce is giving a longer term perspective on how we may be able to use our resources even more effectively and efficiently at all times of the day and week to deliver the very best possible care for patients. It is important and valuable work, which I am sure will have benefits for patients across Scotland.”

Ian Ritchie, Chair of the Academy of Medical Royal Colleges in Scotland, and a member of the Taskforce said:

"It is important we think and discuss seriously the long term future of our NHS, as demand rises. On that basis, we understand that services and models of care need to evolve and change to improve the care people receive across the week.

“The work of the Taskforce is making a valuable contribution to this process. Sustainable 7 day services will require new and innovative models of care across a range of areas, and the Academy welcomes the opportunity to work with the range of stakeholders on the taskforce to deliver these solutions.”


The Taskforce is made up of senior leaders from the NHS and Scottish Government along with representatives from Staffside, professional organisations and patient representatives. It met for the first time in April 2014 and has had 4 subsequent meetings. A number of supporting workstream groups have also been established to support the programme.

To read the interim report, please visit the Scottish Government website.

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