What changes to out of hours GP care means for patients needing a doctor

A GP at work. PA Wire/PA Images
A GP at work. PA Wire/PA Images

Health chiefs say patients in East Durham will still be able to access GP services close to home at nights and weekends despite a planned reduction in centres. 

Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) put forward a number of proposals to change seven-day access to primary care services.

It focussed on the use of nine GP ‘hubs’ that provided additional evening and weekend primary care appointments.

The CCG said feedback from the public and clinicians highlighted that the hubs were valued but some were significantly underused with too many staff for too few patients, difficulty recruiting and keeping staff, and provided poor value for money.

Key recommendations were approved by the CCG Governing Body in on Tuesday, May 28, following a 12-week public consultation between November 7 last year and January 30.

Easington is set to lose its hub which operates between 8am-8pm on weekdays and 8am-1pm on weekends as part of proposals to reduce from three to two sites at Peterlee and Seaham.

The Peterlee hub will operate between noon (reduced from 8am) and 8pm on weekdays and and 8am–1pm on a weekend.

In Sedgefield, appointments will be available from 10am-2pm on a weekend only with the removal of its 6pm-8pm weekday service.

Dr Stewart Findlay, Chief Officer of the CCG, said: “The changes will ensure that we continue to provide high quality prompt treatment or advice.

“We will be launching a local marketing campaign in advance of the changes advising the public what to do if they are unwell and their GP practice is closed.

“‘The CCG’s priority is to commission services that reflect the health needs of our entire population and it is clear from the numbers we are seeing in the current nine hubs that we need to change the service and make sure we are investing NHS funding wisely and providing services that meet patients’ need.”

He added the CCG is looking at enhancing the patient transport service and bringing more outreach services into the most vulnerable patients’ homes.

The changes will come into effect in September or October this year.

Commissioners stressed the GP hubs are not walk in services and appointments need to be made through a patient’s own GP practice or by calling NHS 111.