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Nurses and chemists to give prescriptions over the phone in Scotland

SCOTS are set to be prescribed drugs by nurses and pharmacists over the phone, while new figures show the NHS staffing crisis north of the border is getting worse.

Data released by NHS Scotland yesterday shows that more than 3,300 nursing and midwifery posts were unfilled at the end of June, up from just over 3,200 a year before. There were more than 400 vacancies for consultant doctors.

At the same time, a winter planning blueprint for Scotland’s NHS 24 hotline has revealed that patients dialling in will not necessarily get a GP appointment. Instead, senior nurses and pharmacists will be empowered to prescribe medication down the phone for some conditions.

NHS 24 medical director Laura Ryan said the initiative would “save patients significant time, as it means they can simply go to their nearest open pharmacy to collect the prescribed treatment for them.”

Scottish Labour health spokesman Anas Sarwar said: “While such an approach may work in some circumstances, it is crucial that anyone who needs to see a doctor can do so in a timely manner.”

Mr Sarwar said the staff shortages had been exacerbated by the SNP cutting the intake of nursing and midwifery students by nearly 300 in 2012.

“The SNP government cannot blame the current situation on Brexit. It is a staffing crisis made in Scotland by the SNP,” he said.

BMA Scotland consultants committee chair Simon Barker said: “Consultants in Scotland have been handed real-terms pay cuts year after year and have once again been singled out in the Scottish government’s most recent pay decision.”

But SNP Health Secretary Jeane Freeman insisted: “The number of people working in our health service is at historically high levels.”

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