GPs in north Kent will provide extra appointments in the evenings, at weekends and on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and over New Year in a bid to relieve the pressure on A&E and out of hours services over the festive period.
As part of a recent budget announcement, NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley (DGS) Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which plans and buys health services in the area, has been able to work with GPs locally to ensure appointments are available throughout Christmas and New Year.
Not all GPs will be open in the evenings, on the Bank Holidays and at weekends – but those which are, will be able to see patients who are currently registered at any of the GP practices within the DGS CCG area.
The NHS is under unprecedented pressure locally and nationally with many people going to A&E when they could get care elsewhere. The move by NHS Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley CCG is expected to help to relieve this pressure.
Other steps are also being taken including more beds in hospitals, more GP capacity in walk-in-centres, and more community support.
Local GP Dr Sarah MacDermott, Deputy Chair of the CCG, said: “The additional GP appointments are a big step for patients and a huge commitment from GPs in Dartford, Gravesham and Swanley. We’ve worked very quickly to put this in place and we’re indebted to those GPs and practices who have committed to open their doors over Christmas and New Year.
“Many people are still using A&E inappropriately and we urge everyone to consider self-care where appropriate and ensure they are stocked up on over the counter remedies such as painkillers and medicines for coughs, colds and flu, and vomiting and diarrhoea.
“If people do need medical advice, we’re asking them to choose wisely and call 111. NHS 111 will be able to signpost people to the most appropriate GP surgery.
The additional GP capacity will run from 22 December to 8 January and the CCG is also looking at increasing the number of GP appointments available into the New Year as well.
Dr MacDermott added: “People who are unwell in the Dartford, Gravesham or Swanley area can access a wealth of services including pharmacies, GPs, practice nurses and other practice staff such as health care assistants, at the White Horse walk-in centre and at the minor injury unit at Gravesham Community Hospital in Gravesend.
“If you’re unwell this Christmas or New Year, think carefully about where to go for advice and treatment. NHS 111 is just a call away and can advise you if you’re unsure, and can also help you find access to GPs out of hours, in the evenings, at weekends and on bank holidays.”