The weekend GP cover that was based at Rye hospital – four hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays – has been ended. The reason, says Hastings and Rother Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), is that too few patients visited it. Statistics show an average attendance of 0.6 on a Saturday and 0.3 on a Sunday. Meanwhile, the system of walk-in visits at Cranbrook and Hastings has been extended to cover weekends. Patients without transport or who are housebound will be offered a home visit.
Some of the other key changes in the restructuring of the out-of-hours service include introducing a more diverse mix of healthcare professionals to treat patients, including advanced nurse practitioners and paramedics. In addition, dedicated GP support to undertake home visits means no GP will have to cover both home and base visits. This, the CCG anticipates, will ensure patients receive a much quicker and more effective level of care. And the amount of GP support available out of hours is increased.
The changes, says the CCG, take into account feedback from clinical colleagues and patients while looking closely at the demand.
But the message for patients and local people in general has not changed: the quickest route to out-of-hours GP support is via NHS 111. This number can be used 24/7, 365 days a year. Calls to 111 are free from both landlines and mobiles. The staff will know if the caller’s surgery has extended opening hours that day, and which local pharmacy is open; in fact, they will have all the information that a patient would get from ringing their own surgery.
The CCG recognises that a major concern of patients is understanding how they can access out-of-hours GP support. It is ensuring that all surgeries inform patients clearly via voicemail messages and notices on practice doors/noticeboards about what to do when the surgery is closed. It will also be liaising with clinical colleagues to monitor and understand the impact of these changes.
If you have any feedback or experience of out-of-hours care that you would like to share with Hastings & Rother CCG, please email HRCCG.firstname.lastname@example.org
Jane Taylor is a committee member of Rye Medical Centre’s Patient Participation Group