Concerns over shake-up of GP access

Councillors have raised concerns about extended access to GP services following a major shake-up in County Durham.

Tuesday, 18th June 2019, 18:03 pm
Updated Wednesday, 19th June 2019, 17:17 pm
Picture c/o Pixabay

Last month, Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield’s Clinical Commissioning Group (DDES CCG) backed plans for an overhaul of ‘seven-day services.’

In recent years, nine ‘hubs’ across the area provided additional appointments with patients directed through the ‘NHS 111’ phone service.

But revised plans by health bosses aimed to reduce the number of hubs as some were “significantly underused.”

The new structure includes extended access services covering Easington, Peterlee and Seaham and those in Bishop Auckland, Spennymoor /Newton Aycliffe and Sedgefield.

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As a result of the revamp, hubs were scrapped in Barnard Castle and Stanhope.

A special meeting of Durham County Council’s Adults, Wellbeing and Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee was called to discuss the planned changes.

The service will focus on patients who struggle to access normal GP services and particularly on areas that no longer have a hub.

And a new outreach service will also be introduced for vulnerable patients – with health professionals making visits to deliver care.

However, some councillors slammed the ‘NHS 111’ service for misdirecting patients away from hubs and blamed poor usage of the hubs on lack of promotion.

Director of Commissioning for DDES CCG, Sarah Burns, admitted work needed to be done to tackle “polarised opinions” around the NHS 111 service.

Changes to GP hubs are expected to be put in place in September/ October this year.

While there have been changes to the number of hubs available, patients in these areas will be able to access the service from a “neighbouring hub”.

Additional appointments are available at hubs, accessed by calling NHS 111.

In the Easington area, appointments will be available from 12 noon–8 pm during the week and 8am – 1pm on a weekend in Peterlee and in Seaham from 6-8pm during the week and 8am – 1pm on a weekend.

In the Sedgefield area, additional appointments will be available 12 noon – 8pm during the week and 10am-2pm on weekends from Newton Aycliffe

In addition, Spennymoor will provide appointments from 6-8pm during the week and 10am-2pm on a weekend and in Sedgefield from 10am-2pm on a weekend only.