National and local surveys have shown that that the number of GP appointments has risen considerably, increasing the workload and stretching capacity in primary care. As a result, some patients have said that they experience difficulty in accessing primary care services.
Your practice is a member of NHS Leeds West Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG). In response to what patients have said, the CCG is investing in a voluntary scheme over the next 18 months. This will increase access and capacity in all its member GP practices. This will benefit patients by making it more convenient to attend GP appointments in the evenings and/or at weekends.
The CCG and member practices also want to test out new ways of working. NHS England has said that, eventually, it wants to see seven days opening in the NHS. We want to be ready to do this.
GP practices want to work with the local population and with adjoining practices to develop services that suit our local communities. The aim is that all patients in our area will have access to more convenient GP appointments from 2015.
Under the scheme, practices may choose to open at different times based on the needs of their practice population. For the majority of practices, this should ensure that patients can access services 12 hours a day over five or seven days a week. Some may operate in a ‘hub and spoke’ model with other practices in local communities to offer services. ‘Hub and spoke’ means you would be able to have a doctor’s appointment for routine primary care outside ‘normal’ practice opening times at evenings or weekends, but it might be at another local practice in your community. Practices are working through the detail of this and how they might work together to deliver primary care in particular communities.
To begin with, it will not be possible for every practice to be open 12 hours a day, seven days a week as initially, it will be difficult to identify enough new staff to cover the additional hours. It is also possible that there will not be enough demand from patients to warrant it. Demand and staffing will be monitored closely in the first phases of the project and changes can be made accordingly as it develops.
The existing out of hours doctor service will not be affected by this development in the practice and will continue to operate as normal.