People living in East Suffolk who need to see a doctor after work, at weekends or Bank Holidays can now access up to twice as many GP appointments.
Suffolk GP Federation has secured funding to expand its GP+ extended hours service, which has been running in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.
The extra money has been used to staff additional clinics in Felixstowe, Stowmarket and Wickham Market – with a further clinic set to open in Leiston later this month.
It means that the number of extra appointments will more than double, from the 570 currently available to up to 1,208 per week.
Patients can ask for a GP+ appointment when contacting their doctors’ surgery. They can also be referred via the NHS 111 out of hours service, hospital A&E departments or the ambulance service. Sessions are staffed by Suffolk GPs and practice nurses.The extra appointments come at a time when the NHS is under huge strain – with spikes in demand putting GP surgeries and hospital A&E departments under increasing pressure.
Paul Driscoll, Medical Director and Chairman of Suffolk GP Federation, said: “We have been running GP+ since April 2015 and so far it’s delivered more than 28,000 extra appointments for patients living in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.
“We’re delighted that we now have the opportunity to roll the service out further afield – improving access in other locations.
“Although patients cannot contact GP+ directly we would encourage them to ask their surgery to refer them to the service if it is more convenient.
“The expansion of the service will help to alleviate some of the strain currently faced by the NHS in Suffolk – reducing pressure on both general practice and hospital emergency departments by allowing patients to attend an appointment at a convenient time that fits in with their working day.”
In response to increases in demand, half of the appointments will be available from the Riverside Clinic in Landseer Road, Ipswich.
The rest will be split across the other sites – the Minor Injuries Unit at Felixstowe General Hospital, Stowhealth in Stowmarket, Wickham Market Medical Practice, Leiston Surgery and Swan Surgery in Bury St Edmunds.
Opening hours are:
· 6.30pm – 9pm all locations
· 9am – 9pm on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays in Ipswich
· 9am – 2pm on Saturdays and Bank Holidays in Bury St Edmunds
· 9am – 1pm on Saturdays and Bank Holidays all other locations.
Dr Driscoll added: “GP+ is just one example of how Suffolk GP Federation is trying to tackle some of the challenges currently faced by the NHS.
“As an organisation, we are continually looking at new and innovative ways to improve the way doctors’ surgeries can deliver healthcare in the county. We run several initiatives that aim to make general practice more sustainable – providing support for our members but also ensuring patients continue to receive the high level of service that they quite rightly expect.”
For more information about GP+ or Suffolk GP Federation, visit www.suffolkfed.org.uk.