TOM Gordon reports escalating concerns across the Scottish medical, nursing and political spectrum at NHS staffing deficits ("Ministers told to ‘get real’ about NHS staffing as vacancies peak", The Herald, September 4). A postponed workforce plan is awaited and no doubt improved and flexible working conditions will be part of that. I feel some sympathy for our Government as this is a UK-wide problem with no quick fix.

Perhaps what we – patients, carers and taxpayers – are missing is the scale of Government response to this crisis launched for a possible No Deal Brexit. We should expect a move up in gear in marketing and enduring healthier living skills, better understanding of long-term conditions and their management and community pharmacists increasingly funded and empowered to sit down with patients, encouraging concordance with medication or looking to stop ineffective tablets. The third sector should have an enhanced role in supporting and advocating for patients and carers – guiding self-help and how to avoid entanglement with clinicians as much as signaling when NHS care is required.

While GPs at their best offer a wide breadth and depth of knowledge (10 years to train a GP), in their practices, with health board assistance, they need to send out congruent messages. We should all be receptive to information on navigating health and care services safely and appropriately. There is a responsibility and even a duty to take this to heart. We must now make best use of extended primary care teams of advanced nurse practitioners, practice nurses, district nurses, public health nurses, mental health workers, physios and pharmacists. Practice receptionists with new skills and working to guidelines can and will become allies in getting the timely service we need. Of course, good use of telephone consultations, reliable websites and shared agreement on treatment plans are essential elements.

Governments and health boards are not known for lowering expectations or passing responsibility to public and patients. They have that opportunity now. I will welcome a rebalancing in time to having enough GPs with appointments available. Much often goes on in consultations which may at the outset seem to be for minor complaints. Meanwhile and for some years, my former GP colleagues must apply themselves to complex problems, lead teams, mentor individuals and communicate ever more effectively. This is real and also realistic medicine.

Dr Philip Gaskell, Drymen.