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Suffolk GP project to give better access out of hours already proving to be a success

PUBLISHED: 07:00 16 October 2015

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A pilot project to give people in Suffolk better access to GP services in the evenings and at weekends is already gaining positive results from patients, the group running the service has said.

Suffolk GP+ has been running in Ipswich since September at the Riverside Clinic and will launch in Bury St Edmunds in November – it will offer an extra 20,000 appointments over the next nine months.

Ahead of its official launch by health minister and Ipswich MP Ben Gummer this weekend, it has been revealed that a total of 50 GPs have signed up to form part of the service’s bank of doctors.

And Dr Paul Driscoll, chairman of the Suffolk GP Federation, which is running the pilot, said the service has been welcomed by other healthcare providers including the ambulance service.

Dr Driscoll said: “We are receiving positive feedback from patients because they are getting a quicker appointment for their medical need. The added benefits are that they see a local Suffolk GP who can access their medical record and update it after their appointment so their registered GP is aware.”

“As well as the benefits for the patient’s health in seeing a doctor sooner, we are getting good feedback from healthcare partners such as the ambulance crews and Ipswich Hospital who are valuing the service because it is easing pressure on A&E.

“This is a nine month pilot and if it goes well we hope to be able to extend it,” he added.

The service also offers GP services to patients on bank holidays, with appointments being booked through the patient’s own local GP practice.

In addition to this, Suffolk GP+ is working with hospitals and the ambulance service to ease pressure on emergency departments.

At Ipswich Hospital – and at West Suffolk Hospital from November – patients waiting at A&E and who are assessed as have minor ailments will be offered an appointment with the service.

Paramedics who attend 999 calls also have the option of contacting the service if the patient is assessed as needing to see a GP rather than going to hospital.

The NHS 111 telephone service and GP out-of-hours services are also working with Suffolk GP+.

Paul Kaiser, GP governing body member at the Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “People in Suffolk treat their health service with respect, and the majority of people do all the right things to look after themselves.

“However, when people have tried every other avenue - from eating well, drinking plenty of fluid and getting their immunisations – the next port of call is their family doctor.

“Having more bookable appointments will give people another option over these winter months.”

The service has electronic access to patients’ notes, with patient consent, so the GP or nurse practitioner can better understand their medical background quickly. The notes are then updated by Suffolk GP+.

The scheme was made possible after a proposal was made by the Suffolk GP Federation to the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.

It was initially hoped that funding of £10million would lead to the creation of 10 GP hubs. The project eventually received more than £2m for the project.

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