Suffolk patients who needed to see a GP have benefitted from more than 25,000 extra appointments in the last 12 months, according to latest figures.
Suffolk GP Federation’s GP+ service has allowed more people to access appointments in the evenings, at weekends and bank holidays.
In the last 12 months patients have booked an extra 26,983 appointments with GPs, nurses and physiotherapists – the equivalent of 74 a day.
Those behind the service have said the extra appointments have helped reduce some of the pressure currently faced by GP practices and A&E departments.
They are now urging patients to consider asking for GP+ if they are unable to get an appointment at their own surgery this winter – including over Christmas and New Year.
GP+ runs in Ipswich, Bury St Edmunds, Felixstowe, Leiston, Wickham Market, Stowmarket and Haverhill. In the New Year it is hoped the service will also be rolled out to other parts of West Suffolk.
Patients can ask reception staff to refer them to GP+ if they are unable to book an appointment at their local surgery. They can also be referred to GP+ in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds when they call the NHS 111 telephone helpline during the weekend or on Bank Holidays.
Paul Driscoll, Suffolk GP Federation Medical Director, said: “We’re very pleased with how the service has been performing and the feedback we receive from patients is overwhelmingly positive – with 98% saying they would recommend GP+ to friends or family.
“The service has expanded considerably since it first started, and we are now offering appointments with GPs, physiotherapists and nurses. By introducing a wider range of skills, we have ensured that patients are always seen by the right healthcare professional.
“During the winter in particular the service can play an important role in reducing pressure on GP surgeries and hospital A&E departments.
“We’d encourage anyone who can’t get an appointment at their regular surgery to ask their receptionist about GP+. They will then be seen at a time and location that is convenient to them.”
Patients are also encouraged to visit their local pharmacy for non-urgent healthcare issues such as colds, diarrhoea, sprains and strains, or small cuts and bruises. They can also get help and advice from the new NHS 111 online service or by dialling 111 24/7.
Dr Christopher Browning, a GP in Long Melford and chairman of NHS West Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “By making the right health care choice you will be helping the NHS cope during this very busy time of year. You will also be helping yourself get better more quickly.
“When you are feeling unwell please consider the most appropriate options of self-care, asking your pharmacist or NHS 111 for help and advice and the GP+ service.
“GP+ can offer evening and weekend appointments with a practice nurse or GP and can be accessed through your own GP practice.”
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