Extra GP appointments as NHS feels the winter pressure
SURGERIES are providing extra appointments as the NHS tries to cope with increased levels of illness over the winter.
Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which is responsible for paying for health services in the area, says GP practices across its area are providing a total of 7,000 hours more for appointments over the four months to the end of February.
It comes as Bristol’s hospitals reported that mounting pressures over the winter meant they were failing to meet targets to see emergency patients within four hours and waiting times for planned treatment were rising: at Southmead Hospital one in four emergency patients waited more than four hours for treatment in December.
The CCG says that in South Gloucestershire, the number of hours available for appointments across all surgeries had been increased by 263 per month, the equivalent of 11 extra days of surgery opening.
But the time patients wait to have an appointment vary between practices.
According to the NHS GP Patient Survey for 2019, 27% of patients of the Frome Valley Medical Centre were able to book a same-day appointment, 32% waited more than a day but less than a week and 31% waited for a week or more.
Figures for Yate’s West Walk Surgery, which includes Coalpit Heath Surgery, showed 25% of patients were able to book a same-day appointment, 21% waited between a day and just under a week, while 46% waited a week or more.
At Kennedy Way Surgery in Yate, 74% of patients were able to book a same-day appointment, 14% had to wait between a days and a week and just 9% waited a week or more.
Some patients responding to the survey couldn't remember the length of their wait.
A spokesperson for the CCG said more evening and weekend appointments were being provided to make things more convenient for patients and relieve pressure on busy hospitals.
He added: “Many practices are also embracing digital ways of serving patients, allowing patients to reorder prescriptions, access self-care advice, and book appointments through the NHS app. Some are also offering an online consultation service for their patients.
"We’re also planning to work with practices to pilot and evaluate video consultations in 2020, and provide this as an option for practices to use in 2021.
“There are preventative steps the public can take to stay well this winter, avoiding a trip to a GP or other urgent care service altogether. Actions as simple as keeping warm, getting a flu vaccination and visiting a local community pharmacist at the first sign of illness all contribute to staying healthy.”
A CCG governing body meeting in January heard hospitals including the Bristol Royal Infirmary and Southmead were "enormously pressured" over Christmas and New Year, with demand at A&E growing at a "really significant rate" and 19 people currently waiting more than a year for planned surgery.