DOCTORS will work seven days a week to improve access for patients according to a leading GP.
Dr Mike Guy of NHS England told Hartlepool councillors it is just a matter of time before town surgeries open their doors on weekends.
Local GP chiefs said work was ongoing to improve out of hours access including at the One Life Hartlepool centre in Park Road.
Dr Guy, medical director of Durham, Darlington and Tees area team, told the council’s audit and governance committee of the planned improvements.
He was responding to concerns raised by Stephen Thomas from Healthwatch Hartlepool.
Mr Thomas said: “There are an awful lot of issues with out of hours.
“We still do have some real concerns about the way in which out of hours services are provided in town and how they are promoted.
“Since accident and emergency moved out of town there is still a lot of confusion among the general public what to do out of hours.”
Dr Guy said: “Clearly illness happened seven days a week.
“We should provide the same service on Saturday and Sunday.
“That will come.”
He said it was part of national moves by NHS England to provide a more patient-focussed service as outlined in a report by Sir Bruce Keogh the National Medical Director.
Deborah Bowden, commissioning manager for the North of England Commissioning support unit, said they were in talks with Northern Doctors who provide out of hours services at One Life Hartlepool.
She said: “We are trying to ensure we have got appropriate cover and are working with all services.
“We aim to deliver the same service whatever the time of day.
“A number of practices have already signed up to evening sessions.
“We hope to engage with patients to see what hours they want during the week.
“Now we want to enhance that scheme with further improvements particularly on a Saturday and Sunday to get that seven day service.”
Councillor Keith Fisher, chairman of the audit and governance committee, said: “I applaud the fact you are trying to address this.
“I don’t expect us in one step to go to 24/7 but I do expect it to go to seven days a week.”