Illness doesn’t just conveniently strike during the working day when our GP surgeries are open.
It can hit at any time but often isn’t serious enough to merit a trip to a hospital or emergency department.
But that doesn’t mean people don’t need some kind of medical support – and that is where the region’s Out Of Hours (OOH) medical team comes in.
While most of the working population is heading home, the OOH staff are just beginning their shift.
Based at Kings Cross Hospital on Hospital Street, the OOH service operates from 6pm-8am Monday to Friday, as well as 24 hours a day at weekends and public holidays.
It covers all primary health care that would normally be provided by a GP during daytime hours.
A staggering 80,000 people from all over Tayside call on the service every year.
Lisa Prudom, head of the service, said it takes a team of doctors, nurses, dispatchers and drivers to keep the service running.
She said that, not only do they see patients at the centre in Dundee, but they can also dispatch a doctor with a driver to any far-flung corner of the region.
Lisa said: “We deal with medical conditions patients feel can’t wait until their GP surgery opens in the morning.
“We have doctors and drivers we can call on throughout Tayside and it is the task of our dispatchers, once they have received the call from NHS 24, to orchestrate the visits to where they are needed.
“Patients can obviously also visit us here in Dundee and we have two other centres – one in Arbroath and one in Perth.”
Clinical lead Dr Shawkat Hasan is also a Broughty Ferry-based GP, but he takes his regular turn at the OOH service.
He said: “People are primarily referred to us from NHS 24.
“They do the initial triage on the phone with the patient and then we receive the details of what is happening.
“We deal with a huge variety of ailments from things like colds, chest pain, shortness of breath, viral infections, worries over children – any sort of condition that you would normally go to your GP with but can’t and feel the condition is serious enough to not have to wait until morning.”
Dr Hasan says it’s the task of the OOH service doctor to decide if a patient can safely go home or needs to be admitted to hospital for further investigation.
He added: “We liaise with the hospital if we feel a patient needs to go there and have an excellent relationship with the doctors and departments at our hospitals.
“Also, we can prescribe medicine and have a pharmacy here if necessary.
“Our equipment includes what you would expect to see in a regular GP surgery.
“We are a very busy unit and it’s usually full-on from when we arrive at 6pm.
“There can be about 200 contacts with patients a night and we can see between 1,200-1,300 patients a week. During the period January 20-February 3, we saw 1,239 patients.
“We provide a crucial medical service.
“Our peak times are Saturday and Sunday afternoons and evenings, when we have most staff on.
“We provide vital health care in the community and an important out-of-hours service for the whole of the region.”