Practices open on Saturdays to ease NHS winter pressures

Practices in Dudley, West Midlands, are among GP services across England offering Saturday consultations to help the NHS cope with increased winter pressures.

Consultation: GPs extend Saturday opening (Photo: JH Lancy)
Consultation: GPs extend Saturday opening (Photo: JH Lancy)

Dudley CCG said seven practices were offering Saturday morning appointments to help reduce demand on A&E. GP and CCG clinical lead Dr Jas Rathore said the scheme was popular with patients.

Commissioners in other parts of the country have run similar schemes. Coastal West Sussex CCG arranged an additional 360 GP appointments over the second weekend of January as a result of pressure on the system, although that was not repeated last weekend. 

The CCG said practices were paid ‘competitive rates’ based on patient contacts funded from the CCG’s winter pressures money. 

Appropriate care

Clinical chief officer Dr Katie Armstrong said the local NHS worked well together to provide the best care in the most appropriate place.

‘Every part of health and social care has been seeing and treating more patients than expected for this time of the year, but we are all committed to making sure patient care is the absolute priority,' she said. 

East Staffordshire CCG has been commissioning an additional 270 extra GP appointments each week in Burton and Uttoxeter as part of a series of initiatives to improve access to health care and reduce demand on acute services.

The local improvement scheme includes Saturday openings for practices, additional appointments, and services such as minor injuries on offer to patients.

Willing practices

Clinical chairman at East Staffordshire CCG Dr Charles Pidsley said: ‘The project demonstrates the willingness of our member practices to engage with the CCG in developing  plans to invest in primary care to improve access for patients.

‘Each practice has developed their own plans tailored to their particular practice needs and all practices have participated, showing significant enterprise in the different ways they have approached the issues of improving access to primary care, avoiding unnecessary admissions to hospital.’

Dr Pidsley said the scheme was already showing early evidence of positive impact, with reduced A&E attendances.

Ealing CCG in west London said it has made Saturday and Sunday GP appointments availabe to help the NHS cope with winter pressures.

Chairman Dr Mohini Parmar said: 'We have increased access to GPs for people in Ealing so that they can be treated in primary care on Saturdays and Sundays. We would encourage all residents to use NHS services wisely and choose the correct care for their need to help relieve pressure on A&E services.'

Figures published by NHS England show that 63 local system resilience groups - made up of CCGs, NHS providers and social care organisations - had invested some of the £700m winter resilience funding handed by government to CCGs in primary care. Thirty-five groups said they had used the CCG money specifically on GP schemes, such as additional appointments or GPs in A&Es. Twenty-eight groups said they had invested in 'primary care', including additional capacity and appointments.

In November, the DH said over £25m of the £700m winter resilience funding would be used to increase access to GPs.

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