City GP surgeries considering evening appointments to beat demand

All GP practices have been told they must offer patients the choice of face-to-face appointments.

GP surgeries in Norwich could offer early morning, evening and weekend appointments - Credit: PA

A group of GP surgeries in Norwich is considering adding evening, early morning and weekend appointments to keep up with demand for appointments.

The OneNorwich Practices group is a partnership responsible for 22 GP practices across the city area, with bosses saying they have "never been so busy".

In response to the growing demand, the group is exploring bringing in early morning and evening appointments to provide greater flexibility to patients.

It has contacted patients with a survey looking for feedback on how easy they find accessing GP services - and whether this would be improved by offering appointments either before 8am or into the evening.

The group already offers late appointments at two of its surgeries - Lionwood and Roundwell, which provide appointments until 8pm - but this could see other surgeries also offer this provision.

Janka Rodziewicz, chief executive at OneNorwich Practices, said: “General practice is the bedrock of the NHS. The NHS has always relied on its resilience.

"Its importance and value have once again been demonstrated during the pandemic response.

"Our GP surgeries, have shouldered the lion’s share of the Covid-19 vaccination programme alongside their existing workload.

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"They have also provided more appointments for patients in Norwich than in the equivalent period before the pandemic, although it may not appear so in surgery waiting rooms, given social distancing requirements. 

"In the main, our general practice teams have never been busier.

"However, at the same time, it is true that patients’ ability to access primary care is often not meeting their needs.

"We are seeking to improve this, and would like to ensure that going forwards all of Norwich’s 240,763 patients have equal access to services at a time and place that suits them."

The survey results will help shape proposals that the group will present to commissioners later this year.

Should the group go ahead with extended opening hours it would see additional job vacancies created, which could include for nursing, pharmacists, physios and dieticians.

Dr Jeanine Smirl, GP for St Stephen's Gate Medical Practice. Picture:NWCCG

Dr Jeanine Smirl, GP for St Stephen's Gate Medical Practice. Picture:NWCCG - Credit: Archant

Jeanine Smirl, clinical lead at OneNorwich Practices, added: "As part of the survey our patients are invited to give their views on how likely they would be to use appointments in the morning, evenings and at weekends - as well as the type of services they'd like to see at these times."