Local GPs, working together in federations, are providing over 5,000 more appointments a month to patients across Oxfordshire to improve access to healthcare. These include consultations with GPs, nurses, and other practice staff. This is a result of the Extended Access to GP Services scheme which is commissioned by Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and funded by NHS England.
The additional appointments are provided from locality-based hubs, which serve the patients of practices within that locality. Over half of the appointments are provided at times when practices are usually closed, including during weekday evenings (6.30pm – 8pm), or on Saturdays and Sundays. This gives patients greater choice about when and where they can access GP services.
Evening and weekend appointments are often more suitable for people who work full time, or for older patients who need the support of working family members to get to an appointment. All GPs and other clinicians working in the hubs are able to access patient notes with the consent of the patient.
The scheme also relieves some of the pressure that practices are experiencing during weekday opening hours by moving some routine appointments to evenings and weekends. This frees up GPs to concentrate on patients who require longer appointments and continuity of care because of their particular health problems.
Patients can book routine appointments in advance, as well as same-day urgent appointments, by phoning their own practice receptionist, who will advise them of available slots and make a booking on their behalf. The times and locations of hub services will be available on practice websites so that patients can choose an appropriate time to request an appointment.
The Bell and Hart Surgeries in Henley are part of the SEOX (South East Oxfordshire Federation). Louise West, Practice Manager said, “We are part of the extended hours timetable shared by the 10 locality practices so between us we offer appointments from 6.30 – 8pm every weekday evening plus 3 hours on a Saturday and 3 hours on a Sunday. The Bell Surgery has the timetable available on our website (http://www.thebellsurgery.nhs.uk/) and we also list our extended hours on our website, which is updated on a weekly basis. We regularly offer appointments from 7.30 – 8.30am on a Thursday morning as extended access in response to patient demand. Our patients are really benefiting from the SEOX evening and weekend appointments and particularly like the fact the appointments are 15 minute appointments (rather than the standard 10 minutes). We are delighted that we can offer convenient appointment options to our working patients.”
Other local surgeries in the SEOX include Nettlebed Surgery and Sonning Common Health Centre.
Sarah Moberley, Practice Manager at the Hart Surgery said, “All the GP surgeries have all agreed a rota meaning at least one stays open every evening until 8.30pm and is open for 3 hours on a Saturday and 3 hours on a Sunday. The rota should be available on each GP’s website. Any patient from any of the surgeries can be seen at any of the other surgeries at these ‘out of hours’ sessions.”
Julie Dandridge, Head of Primary Care at Oxfordshire CCG, said: “We want patients to have access to more appointments throughout the week including at the weekends to deliver more effective care in Oxfordshire. More evening and weekend routine appointments suit some people, especially those who are working long hours, have commitments or prefer a more flexible time to see a doctor or nurse. I encourage local people to use this local service designed to improve patient care and wellbeing.”
If people are unable to book a GP appointment under the scheme and need to see a doctor urgently out of hours they should contact NHS 111