More than 25,000 extra out-of-hours GP appointments taken up by Suffolk patients in one year
PUBLISHED: 12:47 21 December 2017
The equivalent of 74 extra doctors’ appointments a day are being provided in Suffolk as part of a growing out-of-hours service, latest figures show.
Suffolk GP Federation’s GP+ scheme has allowed more people to access care in the evenings, at weekends and bank holidays, when their normal surgery is closed.
Over the past 12 months, patients have booked 26,983 additional appointments with the not-for-profit organisation’s GPs, nurses and physiotherapists.
Bosses behind the initiative say the service is helping to reduce pressure on the county’s over-stretched general practices and A&E departments.
GP+ runs in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe, Leiston, Wickham Market, Stowmarket and Haverhill. In the New Year it is hoped the service will also be rolled out to other parts of west Suffolk.
Patients can ask reception staff to refer them to GP+ if they are unable to book an appointment at their local surgery. They can also be referred to GP+ in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds when they call the NHS 111 helpline during the weekend or on bank holidays.
Paul Driscoll, Suffolk GP Federation’s medical director, said: “We’re very pleased with how the service has been performing and the feedback we receive from patients is overwhelmingly positive – with 98% saying they would recommend GP+ to friends or family. The service has expanded considerably since it first started, and we are now offering appointments with GPs, physiotherapists and nurses. By introducing a wider range of skills, we have ensured that patients are always seen by the right healthcare professional.”
Healthcare services traditionally see a surge in demand during winter, and GP+ leaders are encouraging people to utilise the service if they can’t get a doctor’s appointment this festive season.
Patients are also urged to make use of pharmacies and the 111 NHS line for any non-urgent problems.
Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “By making the right health care choice you will be helping the NHS cope during this very busy time of year. You will also be helping yourself get better more quickly.”