PATIENTS who want same-day appointments with their local GP face being assessed by NHS 24 call centre staff under a new scheme.

Musselburgh's busy Riverside Medical Practice is to trial a new system which will see calls from patients passed to NHS 24 staff for further checks before a doctor can be seen.

In some cases it is expected the NHS 24 staff will direct patients instead to visit their community pharmacy or offer alternative services.

The four-month pilot will be introduced next week with health bosses saying the aimis to ensure people who may not need to see a doctor are diverted to a more appropriate form of help.

Patients who call for a same-day appointment will, in some instances be called back by NHS 24 and asked further questions before a decision is taken about whether they need to see a GP.

It is hoped the service, which is being jointly operated by NHS 24's ‘In-Hours GP Triage’ programme, East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership and the Riverside GP Practice, will expand beyond same-day calls to look at diverting more appointments to alternative services offered by clinical staff at the practice in the new year.

Dr Richard Fairclough, partner at Riverside Medical Practice, which is based at Musselburgh Primary Care Centre on Inveresk Road, said: “We welcome the opportunity to work with NHS 24 to trial the patient call-back service, particularly as it will provide us with the opportunity to have more face-to-face time with our patients.

“This will help to ease the pressure on appointments and benefit service provision to all of our patients. We are encouraging all of our patients to support this new way of working. The initial call handling by our staff will ensure that we correctly identify those calls that NHS 24 are best placed to deal with.”

As well as telephone triage, the GP Triage Service will include redirecting patients to a range of digital options, including NHS inform’s healthcare information, webchat service and Self Help Guides.

David Small, East Lothian Health and Social Care Partnership director, added: “We are committed to improving access to primary care services. The call back service and Musselburgh Primary Care Access Service are two of the key developments we are working on locally in Musselburgh. We know that the town has a rapidly expanding population with lots of different needs.

“By doing things a little bit differently and making the best use of our resources, we think that we can ensure that people see the right healthcare professional at the right time, which we know will lead to a much better experience for our patients and also to much better health outcomes generally.”