A CCG in the North East is set to close down its two walk-in centres in favour of new GP hubs offering seven-day, pre-bookable appointments until 9.30 at night.
NHS South Tees CCG said the decision follows a consultation of people living in the Middlesbrough and Redcar and Cleveland area.
The CCG says that from 1 April, patients will be able to access early morning appointments from 6am on weekdays and 8am on Saturday and Sunday, until 9.30pm over seven days – including on weekends and bank holidays.
The service, to be offered out of four hubs, will be ‘run by local doctors and nurses from the area, who will have access to your patient records’, it added.
The CCG said this would make it ‘easier for people to access appointments at a time that is convenient for them’, adding that it should add an extra 90,000 pre-bookable appointments.
But the four hubs, which will based at North Ormesby Health Village, Redcar Primary Care Hospital, One Life Centre in Linthorpe and East Cleveland Hospital in Brotton, will replace the area’s two walk in centres.
The announcement said: ‘As part of the CCG’s changes to offer seven-day access to GP services across the four, new extended-hours GP centres, the walk-in centres at North Ormesby (part of Resolution Health Centre) and Eston Grange will close on 31 March 2017.’
In order to access appointments at the four new hubs, patients will have to call their registered GP practice to make an appointment.
The CCG is promoting the new scheme via a local radio campaign as well as a sending a four-page information leaflet to every household in the area in the coming weeks.
The leaflet will advise patients on how to book the extended access appointments but also on which is the best NHS service to access in which specific situation.
NHS South Tees CCG chair Dr Janet Walker said: ‘We are excited to be working with our local doctors and nurses to offer our patients seven-day access to GP practice appointments.
‘With four new extended hours GP centres across our patch, that’s an extra 90,000 appointments that will be available from 6pm to 9.30pm Monday to Friday and 8am to 9.30pm at weekends and bank holidays.
‘The centres will operate on an appointment-based system – people won’t be able to just walk in, and I would urge people to contact their GP practice in the first instance, or if you’re unsure and need help, call 111 which is free from landlines and mobile phones.
‘Where people need to be seen the same the day, an appointment will made at a time and location that is convenient for them.’
The quest for seven-day GP appointments
The Government’s 2015 election manifesto pledged that everyone would have access to a routine GP appointment seven days a week, 8am to 8pm.
It has to date spent hundreds of millions on piloting seven-day services, although as Pulse has found, many have scaled back their Sunday ambition due to a lack of demand, focusing instead on in-hours overspill hubs and Saturday morning access.
All CCGs will be expected to extend GP access on evenings for an extra £6 per patient from April 2019, but in a climbdown from NHS England’s side, weekend opening will ‘depend on local demand’.
A Pulse analysis has shown that at least £1.5bn will be ploughed into extending GP access by 2021, so it is no surprise that last month seven-day pilot areas were told to drum up demand for the appointments or risk losing their extra funding.