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Just three patients attend GP practice’s Easter Saturday morning surgery

Exclusive A GP practice was paid £650 to see just three patients during a three-hour Easter Saturday surgery as GP leaders criticised the double-running of out-of-hours services.

Another practice with a list size of almost 15,000 patients reported seeing just seven patients during the shift, being paid around £350 for employing an extra GP to handle emergency patients.

Area teams are currently collecting data on exactly how much demand there was for the extra Saturday services, but GP leaders said NHS England’s directive to local commissioners to fund extra GP opening over the Easter weekend was wasting stretched resources.

Pulse revealed last week that out-of-hours providers were struggling to fill shifts as a result of local LESs being commissioned at short notice.

The Penn Manor Medical Centre in Wolverhampton saw just three patients from their 11,500 list turning up for the one-off Saturday session, which was staffed by one GP and two receptionists and earned it £650.

Practice manager Helen Ryan said: ‘We offered 18 appointments, 16 pre-bookable, two acute on the day. We had three patients. And that was for one GP and two receptionists.’

The surgery did provide ‘a handful’ of telephone consultations, she added, blaming the short notice given for the practice to advertise the extra opening to patients, as it was only given the details of the scheme two weeks’ prior.

Ms Ryan said: ‘[The view in our practice was] it was a bit of a waste of time. If you’d had more time to advertise it properly, or if there was a bit more of a campaign in the Midlands to say that this was available, but there wasn’t anything. 

‘Apart from people walking by, or ringing on the off chance that they just needed to listen to the out of hours details, I don’t think people would have taken much notice.’

A spokesperson for NHS England (West Midlands) told Pulse: ‘Resilience plans were put in to place to ensure appropriate services were available for patients in Birmingham, Solihull and The Black Country over the Easter weekend.

‘NHS England (West Midlands) took steps to inform NHS 111 about this initiative that was running over the Easter weekend in Birmingham, Solihull and The Black Country so that patients could be directed to the additional out of hours services provided.’

Practices in Birmingham, Solihull and The Black Country who decided to take part in this initiative have been asked to provide feedback on the number of patients that accessed services over the Easter weekend, NHS England (West Midlands) is awaiting this feedback.’

Meanwhile another practice reported seeing just seven patients from its 14,500 patient list, despite putting notices in the waiting room and also informing pharmacies and NHS 111.

The Old Station Surgery in Derbyshire was paid £350 to employ an extra GP to see emergency patients alongside its regular enhanced service Saturday opening with pre-bookable appointments, but saw just seven patients turn up.

Derby and Derbyshire LMC executive officer Dr John Ashcroft, who worked the shift himself, told Pulse his practice was just one of two participating in the local scheme.

He said: ‘We saw just seven [emergency] patients for our 14,500 list, even though we had had notices in waiting rooms, let pharmacies and CCG know.’

Although one of the seven patients had been an elderly man calling ‘on the off chance’ on the Saturday morning and ending up being admitted to hospital with symptoms of a stroke, Dr Ashcroft said the out-of-hours services would probably have met demand.

He said: ‘It needs to be a regular thing if you’re going to open on a Saturday morning for emergencies. People need to know that you’re doing it. So a one-off like this isn’t terribly effective use of resource.

‘I think the out-of-hours [service] would have met the demand probably… It’s all, one feels, a bit of a pre-election gimmick, or NHS England running around thinking “we’ve got to do something in case we get criticised”.’

NHS England (North Midlands) said they were also awaiting feedback from participating GP practices and a spokesperson said: ‘NHS England worked with practices in Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire to ensure that patients had access to urgent and pre-booked appointments over the Easter bank holiday.’

GPC member and former lead negotiator on urgent care Dr Peter Holden was also critical of the use of resources.

He said: ‘I think you’re paying twice for the same service. The real issue is that the guys who are going to provide the physical boots on the ground are the same guys who are going to be boots on the ground for the out-of-hours service. And there’s a limit to how far you can stretch these people.’

It comes as a row broke out between the Labour and Conservative parties yesterday over extended GP access, with Labour claiming 590 fewer practices’ are offering extended hours under the coalition Government.

A national spokesperson for NHS England declined to comment, referring to local area teams or CCGs that had commissioned local schemes.

This story was updated at 16.09 on 08 April to include coments from NHS England West and North Midlands area teams.

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