GP out-of-hours changes agreed

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CHANGES to how the GP out- of-hours service is provided in Suffolk will be introduced from February 1.

Three out-of-hours centres in Newmarket, Wickham Market and Aldeburgh will close while the number of GP cars on the road will increase.

The changes will be monitored for three months.

The out-of-hours service, which provides urgent GP attention, is run by Harmoni, which took over the NHS Suffolk contract 20 months ago.

The changes will see a new out- of-hours base in Saxmundham and three more GPs in cars available to visit people in their homes, bringing the total of car services to 13.

The service is not currently 100 per cent staffed and this is partyly a result of certain centre locations being unpopular with GPs as well as the length of shifts being too short.

GPs can sign up to 154 shifts each week which equates to 827 patient face-to-face hours each week. Currently, there is a five per cent shortfall.

The changes are aimed at making shifts, which are voluntary but paid for, more attractive to GPs.

In October there was a 94 per cent take up, in November 100 per cent and in December 99.7 per cent.

Harmoni also believes that the changes will mean more clinicians working in the service at times when people are more likely to need out of hours help.

Dr David Lee, Harmoni regional medical director, said: “The changes in the service will allow us to better meet the profile of activity across the county.”