A north-east nurse has raised fears that changes to the way staff are managed could lead to delays in providing life-saving care.
District nurses in NHS Grampian could come under management of GPs as part of changes to the organisation of community care being considered by health bosses.
The board believes the move, one of several options being considered, would result in a stronger link between patients and the GP responsible for their care.
Unions have held talks with management however after some staff raised fears it could lead to longer waits for patients receiving vital care due to piling the extra workload on already under-pressure doctors.
District nurses are currently based at medical practices and assess patients to determine whether a referral to a doctor or hospital is needed – but come under their own umbrella at health and social care boards.
One warned the move could “put the public in danger” due to the length of time it could take for GPs to make decisions that can currently be made without them.
The nurse, who does not with to be named, said: “How many times have you been frustrated that you couldn’t see a GP, and were sent a nurse practitioner instead?
“The district nurse is one of the only professionals who can intervene and make a clinical decision that could be the difference between life and death.
“So many times in my career, I, and my colleagues have been responsible for an intervention that could save yours, or your loved ones’ lives.
“Already the GP has withdrawn from patient contact, because they can’t cope with demand. More patients are joining practices that cannot cope with the workload.”
Staff have been consulted about the changes, which would see the role of district nurses change from secondary to primary care funding.
District nurses are based at GP surgeries but visits patients to treat them at their home before making decisions on any future care that might be needed.
Their work can also include people who have been recently discharged from hospital or those suffering from long-term conditions.
Yesterday union representatives said talks have already been held with senior management about the changes – which have been proposed to increase “efficiency”.
Unite regional officer John Boland said: “I’ve spoken with the employee director and they said part of the reason for it is to find out if there are any concerns.
“I think they’re just looking for more efficiency, like all health boards are, to create a better link for people with their GP.
“At the moment community nursing is directly under the control of NHS Grampian – this is just looking at how these things can link together better.
“I can understand there will inevitably be concerns from people about how they will be managed.”
Moray MSP Richard Lochhead believes a change to the system might be necessary to improve local health care.
He said: “Our district nurses in Moray play a vital role in the NHS and any concerns they have over any proposed changes must be heeded.
“Given the rising demands on our services the NHS needs to constantly adapt so patients can benefit from our services working more closely together so that there is more of a community focus and not just on hospital settings.
“Hopefully, a balance can be struck and the consultation carefully considers the views of our district nurses.”
An NHS Grampian spokeswoman said: “We are considering a range of options and have had one very useful meeting with staff.
“Another meeting is scheduled. No decisions have yet been taken.”