GPs in Bedfordshire will hold surgeries on Saturday mornings and two doctors will be on call for urgent home visits from 8am to 6:30pm on weekdays under the new service commissioned by the local CCG.
Patients needing an urgent home visit can see a GP the same day, avoiding the need to wait for a consultation slot at the local surgery to become available.
The Saturday morning walk-in clinic sees patients with an urgent problem that cannot wait until Monday.
The services, which began in early December, have been commissioned by Bedfordshire CCG to relieve pressure on Bedford Hospital A&E department. So far the home visits service has averaged 18 referrals per day.
Dr Ruhul Amin, one of the on-call GPs, said: ‘This is a fantastic service for patients. Previously patients would ring their GP practice and have to wait until the afternoon for a home visit. Now a doctor can come to them straight away.’
Local GP Dr John Kedward of the London Road Health Centre, one of the practices providing the new rapid response service, said: ‘Increasingly over the past three years our workload has gone up and our ability to manage the urgent work in time to keep people out of A&E has become more challenging.
‘In particular, it can be difficult to respond to a request for an urgent home visit if we have a surgery full of patients waiting to see us. So if the condition of a patient at home worsens, we often have to instruct them to call an ambulance.
‘The home visiting service means patients can have access to a visit from an experienced GP much more quickly.’
CCGs across England are rolling out similar schemes following concerns about pressures facing A&E departments this winter.
Ministers have pledged £400m to CCGs and under-pressure hospitals to meet demands this winter.