WIGAN health bosses have unveiled a scheme which it is hoped will improve evening and weekend access to GP appointments.
Two surgeries are already up and running as part of the first wave for the new seven-day primary care scheme, using £2.5m from the Prime Minister’s Challenge Fund.
Pemberton Surgery and Shevington Surgery have become the first to trial the scheme with Seven Brooks Health Centre in Tyldsley opening in the next three weeks.
And a further six GP sites will be opening by the end of September.
Dr Tim Dalton, chair of NHS Wigan Borough Clinical Commissioning Group (WBCCG) said: “There are huge pressures on the NHS at the moment in terms of extra demands for patient access and delivering care to a consistently high standard.
“We can try to beg for more resources to do more of the same or we can use the current resources to work very differently.
“To me the role of GP has three basic functions: first primary prevention like vaccinations, smoking cessation and sexual health; second dealing with acute self-limiting illness or exacerbation of a chronic condition; and, finally, managing chronic conditions like heart disease and diabetes. At the moment frequently the same physician tries to do all of these functions in the same 10 minute slot.
“That leads to us being very strained and pressured. I think that’s why we need to try to work differently in terms of making sure different types of clinician deal with these different types of conditions in a different way.
“This is where the extended hours can be brought in and for GP services in total to be available spread over seven days a week.”
He added: “Now many of our working age patients in Wigan work elsewhere so cannot get back to see their GP until the evening or weekends.
“In Wigan we will begin extended access hours soon.
“Our Federations have had good recruitment of GPs wanting to deliver care in evenings and across seven days.
“From the patient perspective you will be able to book to see either your own clinical team at your practice or with a clinician in the hub with access to your records. It also gives clinicians flexibility.
“With this new way of working hopefully next phase would logically be for the current Out of Hours service to be built into this offer.
“It will mean the clinician seeing you will be also able to see your records and will be able to give a comprehensive diagnosis based on a patient’s long-term care plan.
“It will lead to better care as we prescribe the right medicines that will not affect their current medications.
“Finally these changes, while being difficult to introduce at the beginning, will in the longer term provide security and peace of mind to both the GP and the patient.”
Patients do not have to be registered with the surgery they visit as part of the scheme but will not necessarily see their own GP.
However, they will have access to a clinician at a time that is convenient to them.
It will not replace current surgeries but is intended to increase capacity.
As well as seven day access and evening opening hours, there are future plans to test a variety of services to suit modern lifestyles, including greater use of Skype, email and phone consultations for those who would find it easier.
To get an appointment at one of the surgeries taking part in the project, patients are asked to ring 01942 482848