To meet waiting time targets, patients in Scotland will be assessed by nurses instead of consultants and spend less time in hospital, according to a government briefing to local health boards.

The Scottish Government’s 18-week referral to treatment time programme has advised NHS managers to meet the target of no patient waiting longer than 18 weeks from a GP referral to the date of their operation without compromising patient care.

The briefing’s key suggestions include using specialist nurses and health professionals such as physiotherapists to reduce consultant appointments by assessing if a patient needs the attention of a specialist or simply advice.

Health boards have been told to avoid unnecessary follow-up appointments and that day surgery should be kept as the norm rather than traditional overnight stays, according to the Herald.

The programme has also focused on improving referral and diagnostic pathways, improving booking processes, extending direct access to diagnostic services to free up consultant appointments and hospital beds.

The NHS in Scotland hopes that the move will speed up patient treatment and ease pressure on hospital beds and consultant appointments, but a number of doctors and politicians have raised concerns that it could compromise patient care.

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