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GPs to open longer and work in A&E to bail out NHS over Christmas

Exclusive A GP federation has secured a £200,000 contract to staff the local A&E department over the holidays and through January.

NHS Kingston CCG is spending a quarter of a million pounds on enhanced general practice this winter, including a GP federation handed a £200,000 contract to staff the local A&E department with GPs on a rota through to the end of January.

The remainder of the money put forward by the CCG is going towards extended opening at 25 out of 26 local GP practices and special ‘winter pressures’ clinics at Surbiton Health Centre and Churchhill Medical Centre on weekends and bank holidays.

The GPs-in-A&E scheme sees the Kingston GP Chambers, a federation formed of three GP practices, provide 45 hours of GP time at Kingston Hospital over Christmas, reducing to 21 hours a week through January.

Kingston LMC deputy chair Dr Richard Van Mellaerts said the CCG was convinced to invest in extended general practice because GPs were ’able to demonstrate that it helps reduce four-hour wait breaches, which the A&E is judged upon’.

He said: ’It is building in extra capacity to enable A&E to deal with those patients they are trained for and best suited to dealing with, so that the primary care patients get removed from the system at the earliest possible stage.’

A spokesperson for Kingston CCG said: ’As a CCG, we recognise that winter has always been particularly challenging for the NHS. It is often a time of poor health, increased A&E attendances and emergency hospital admissions.

’Therefore we are committed to doing all we can to help alleviate these pressures on the local health economy. Our additional investment in increasing access to primary care in Kingston is part of this overall commitment.’

Elsewhere, CCGs across England are also funding extra opening over the Christmas and winter period.

For example:

  • In Barking, Dagenham, Havering and Redbridge, GP hubs will offer urgent appointments to patients on Christmas Day and other Bank Holidays;
  • Two walk-in centres to provide extra primary care cover, and two practices to operate as primary care hubs on 26, 27 and 28 December in North Tyneside;
  • Appointments on Saturdays and Bank holidays from December through to March in some practices in Stoke-on-Trent;
  • Extended opening hours offered by 31 out of 42 practices in Leeds South and East.

It comes as NHS England has pledged to bolster delivery of primary care this winter by providing £2m to cover GPs’ indemnity costs for out-of-hours-shifts.

Last winter, one in four CCGs funded GP services through the £700m winter pressures fund. This year, CCGs were allocated longer-term ‘system resilience’ funding earlier on in the year to be able to plan ahead better.

However Pulse revealed that extending winter pressure initiatives through April – right up until the general election – meant funds for this winter were already being tapped into.