Havering GPs are to open their doors at weekends to help relieve the pressure on local hospital A&E departments. A new scheme, which starts this weekend, aims to offer patients who are ill or injured and need urgent care, but are not a medical emergency, a weekend GP appointment in place of a long wait at A&E.
The scheme is designed to ease the pressure on local A&E departments this winter with Havering GPs reminding the public that A&E is only for people with a life-threatening medical emergency.
Here’s how it works. Starting this weekend, the local NHS 111 service can book an urgent weekend GP appointment for you, if needed, at a nearby surgery.
If the problem can wait until Monday, you will be given a ‘passport slip’ that will ensure your own GP contacts you. This will also help reduce the pressure on GP surgeries at the start of the week as patients will not have to wait until Monday to phone for an appointment.
Patients access the new service by calling 111 to ensure they get the right care. Some services, such as x-rays, stitches and medical certificates are not available through the new scheme.
Local hospitals can also re-direct patients to a weekend GP surgery if it is the right place for them to be seen.
A&E attendances at Barking Havering and Redbridge University Hospitals Trust (BHRUT) increased by 18 per cent between 2003 and 2011, with the biggest increases coming at the weekend. Winter is the busiest time for the NHS so local GPs want to make sure that, if people need urgent care, alternatives are in place so only those with a life-threatening emergency use A&E and can be seen more quickly.
The scheme will be rolled out between now and December starting in those areas that have the highest numbers of patients using A&E. Participating practices will be open for appointments between 9.30am and 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
Havering CCG chair and local GP Dr Atul Aggarwal said:
“We know our local hospital is likely to face serious pressures over the winter and, as local GPs, we must do our bit to help.
“Patients should only go to A&E if they have a life threatening emergency, but sometimes they simply don’t know where they should seek help. We need to provide alternative places for patients who don’t need to be in A&E at weekends but do need to be seen quickly. By calling 111, those patients who need an urgent weekend GP appointment will get one.
“Opening some GP surgeries at weekends this winter is a key part of our plans to make sure patients get the right care in the right place.”
The weekend opening scheme will initially run through the winter. GPs will then look at how effective the scheme has been in reducing A&E attendances before deciding whether to continue it on a longer term basis.