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An inquiry into the different ways patients access healthcare services in Scotland has been launched by the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee.

Traditionally, when a person seeks healthcare their first point of contact is usually with a general practitioner (a GP or family doctor) but the inquiry is focused on other routes to accessing healthcare that exist in the community, referred to as ‘alternative pathways’. The aim of the inquiry is to explore how and to what extent these alternative pathways are being used to access primary care, and to identify key issues and opportunities for improvement.

Alternative pathways to healthcare in the community include:

  • Seeing a different health practitioner, such as a physiotherapist, nurse, pharmacist, speech therapist, or podiatrist who works in the GP practice or in the local community.
  • Being directed to other types of support to improve health and wellbeing – such as walking groups, community groups, advice, or volunteering (referred to as ‘social prescribing’).
  • Using telephone helplines websites to access additional information, advice and online therapies.

The Committee is seeking to find out the current level of awareness amongst health practitioners and patients of alternative pathways to healthcare other than seeing a GP and how this might be improved in the future. They are keen to find out what capacity other primary healthcare professionals have to take on more patients, the role of social prescribing in alternative pathways and how technology can improve services.

Speaking as the inquiry launched, Gillian Martin MSP, Convener of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee, said:

“The traditional model of primary care where you went to see a GP for any and all health issues is placing ever increasing pressure on GP services.

“This isn’t a sustainable situation for general practices – but it’s also not good for patients struggling to get a GP appointment when there may be alternative and better routes they could go down to get the healthcare they need.

“Through our detailed work on this inquiry, the Committee is keen to explore what opportunities exist to make more and better use of these alternative routes to healthcare.

“We want to find out what role they have to play in creating a modern, flexible, community-based healthcare system which allows patients to access the right professional, at the right time.”

If you are a medical professional or organisation who would like to respond to the inquiry you can do so here: https://yourviews.parliament.scot/health/alternativepathways

Members of the public can give us their views here: https://yourviews.parliament.scot/health/alternativepathways-survey

The call for views will close on 22 February 2022.

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