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GP practices to refer up to a fifth of patients to same-day care centre

GP practices in Surrey are now referring all same-day patients to a new urgent care centre in an effort to provide longer routine appointments and reduce waiting times.

The GP lead for the project said the care centre was a ‘recognition’ of increasing GP workloads as it could take on up to 20% of the practices’ appointments, reducing waiting times for routine appointments down to just days.

Based in the Farnham Centre for Health, the care centre was launched at the beginning of this month and serves 40,000 patients across four local practices.

Patients at the four practices are able to book an appointment through their practice as they usually would but are sent to the care centre if a same-day appointment is needed. 

Between three and four GPs are supplied to the care centre by the practices involved: Downing Street Group Practice, Farnham Dene Medical Practice, The Ferns Medical practice and River Wey Medical Practice.

In addition to GPs, the centre will also be staffed with nurse practitioners and a physiotherapist.

Dr David Brown, the lead GP for the project, said that before the centre was launched, up to 20% of the practices’ appointments were urgent and could now be taken at the new care centre, reducing waiting times from more than a week to a few days.

He said that this is already freeing up GP time to spend up to 15 minutes with patients during routine appointments, providing ‘a more considered approach to patient care’.

He added that the practices hope the separation of urgent and routine care will have a ‘knock-on effect in terms of recruitment’ by managing their workload and improving the work-life balance of the GPs.

He said: ‘We would expect that on a day when we are working on the urgent side of the system that we would be busy but it would be contained whereas on the days when we are working in the routine side of the system, we can offer longer appointments and have a more considered approach to patient care.’

This comes as NHS England was said to be exploring GPC plans for practices to be able to refer patients to a hub staffed by GPs and other health professionals that would deal with urgent on-the-day problems, giving other GPs time to offer 15-minute appointments.

However, while a survey from April found that more than three-quarters of patients prefer to see a regular GP, Dr Brown said patients and GPs have accepted the lack of continuity of care at the new care centre.

He said: ‘We all acknowledge that in terms of urgent care, it doesn’t matter who you see as long as the person you see has access to the medical records, which we do.’

The health professionals at the care centre are able to read and amend patient records through EMIS.

The care centre, which is currently open between 8am and 6.30pm from Monday to Friday, is planning to extend its opening hours to 8pm ‘in the near future’ with extended access funding.

NHS North East Hampshire and Farnham CCG was unable to comment on future funding for the care centre ahead of the general election.

It comes as a Pulse survey of over 800 GPs showed that the average wait for a GP appointment remains at two weeks despite measures introduced by the NHS to alleviate pressures on general practice in the past year.

Readers' comments (8)

  • I must be missing something here.

    Some patients are seen at the surgery.

    Some patients are seen at the hub.

    But the hub is staffed by "3-4 doctors from the practices"

    So the same number of doctors are seeing the same number of patients as before the hub was set up.

    What is the benefit here?

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  • Vinci Ho

    Interesting to know the criteria to define 'urgent'.
    The way the hub is to be funded ? The premises?
    Only with the appropriate resources(money , manpower, expertise and time),the will then turns into a way ....,,,

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  • Vinci Ho

    And presumably the four practices are big enough in combined size(40,000) to qualify for 'new' money from GP 5YFV for different new aspects??

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  • Do they still get full capitation payments for all their patients, even though they are seen elsewhere?

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  • Presumably some patients who requested an appointment to see a doctor on the same day decide they cannot be bothered to go to the hub. They put off attending and just get better themselves.

    Is that really the whole business plan?

    I suppose it also means people who want routine care cannot lie and say it is urgent.

    Otherwise Dylan (above) is correct - same number of GPs, same number of appointments seen.

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  • Another for Dylan's assessment.

    Another management/political scam? Shame on you!

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  • Neil Bhatia

    No benefit unless *additional* clinicians are employed (and funded) to see the "urgent on the day" patients

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  • What an insanely stupid idea.

    Well of course patients have acute and chronic written all over them and the two shall never meet.

    What a demoralising way to work

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