Patients in East Leicestershire and Rutland are being asked for their views on out-of-hours healthcare services, as the local NHS looks to make improvements to the services.
The services, known as urgent care services, offer GP and nurse appointments when GP practices are closed on weekday evenings, at weekends and on bank holidays.
NHS East Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Group (ELR CCG) is proposing the changes as the contracts for the services come to an end in March 2019.
The changes, which include plans to open a new urgent care centre in the Blaby district area and revise opening hours of existing urgent care services, are designed to make services easier to navigate for patients and make best use of NHS resources.
There are currently three nurse-led urgent care centres in East Leicestershire and Rutland which offer walk-in services and pre-booked appointments by calling NHS 111. These include Melton Mowbray, Oakham and Market Harborough, which are open on weekday evenings from 5pm to 9pm and at weekends and on bank holidays from 9am to 7pm.
A walk-in service is available at the urgent care centre in Oadby on weekday evenings from 8am to 9pm and at weekends and bank holidays from 8am to 8pm.
Patients can also access an out-of-hours GP service by calling NHS 111 at two sites in Oakham and Lutterworth. The service offers GP appointments at weekends and on bank holidays from 8am to 9pm in Oakham and from 10am to 4pm in Lutterworth.
Housebound patients can access a 24/7 urgent care visiting service by calling NHS 111.
Feedback from patients has shown that people are confused about what service is available when, especially when out-of-hours services overlap with GP practice opening hours. Patients have also said they are confused about how to access urgent care services, whether they are walk-in, available by appointment only or booked by calling NHS 111.
The new proposals aim to make services easier to navigate for patients and make best use of NHS resources. The plans outline combining the current out-of-hours GP service with the nurse-led urgent care service, keeping services in the same location but making opening hours consistent across most of the sites. Currently, the services operate under different contracts so patients can face difficulty accessing one service from another.
Figures show urgent care centres in East Leicestershire and Rutland are not widely used on weekday evenings from 5pm to 6.30pm when GP practices are still open. Half (51%) of appointments at urgent care centres in Melton Mowbray (50%), Oakham (65%) and Harborough (38%) are not used during these periods. The new proposals include opening urgent care centres from 6.30pm to 9pm on weekday evenings to avoid the overlap with GP practice opening hours and reduce confusion over where people should access services.
Patients have told ELR CCG they find it confusing that urgent care centres in East Leicestershire and Rutland are open at different times. In response to this, ELR CCG is considering standardising opening hours across most urgent care centres at weekends and on bank holidays from 9am to 5pm so that services are easier to navigate for patients and make best use of NHS resources. Although usage varies at different urgent care centres in the area, over one-third (36%) of appointments available at urgent care centres in Melton Mowbray (10%), Oakham (68%) and Harborough (28%) are not used at weekends and on bank holidays between 5pm and 7pm. ELR CCG wants to hear patients’ views on whether standardising opening hours across most of the sites will meet patients’ needs locally.
In the plans, ELR CCG proposes to open a new urgent care centre in the Blaby district area, recognising there is patient demand for a service in the area. Figures show over one-quarter (26%) of out-of-hours appointments at Oadby Urgent Care Centre are used by people who live in the Blaby district area. The exact location for the new site is yet to be determined and patients are being asked for their views on what is important to them.
ELR CCG recognises patient concerns around availability of appointments at GP practices. As part of the plans, patients will be able to pre-book weekday evening, weekend and bank holiday appointments at urgent care centres via their GP practice from September 2018. And, there will be increased investment in weekday access for on-the-day appointments at GP practices.
The plans will also ensure patients can continue to access urgent care services outside of East Leicestershire and Rutland in neighbouring areas, for example in Stamford, Rugby, Grantham and Corby.
Dr Andy Ker, Clinical Vice-Chair at ELR CCG said: “We are keen to ensure that our urgent care services continue to meet people’s needs while providing high-quality, cost-effective services. We believe the plans we’ve set out will reduce some of the confusion around accessing out-of-hours GP and nurse appointments in East Leicestershire and Rutland; will reduce inefficiencies around having separate services and will ultimately ensure patients have access to high-quality services which are easy to navigate and make best use of NHS resources.
“We would encourage all patients to share their views on the plans with us so we can better understand their needs and how any changes might impact them.”
The survey is available to complete online at: surveymonkey.com/r/ELRurgentcare18
People are also invited to attend two information events to find out more about the plans. Patients are asked to register in advance for the events using the links below:
- Tuesday 3 July from 10am to 12.30pm at Community Lounge, Brockington College, Blaby Road, Enderby, Blaby LE19 4AQ
- Thursday 12 July from 2pm to 4.30pm at Conference Room, Rutland Community Hub, Voluntary Action Rutland, Lands End Way, Oakham LE15 6RB
The survey will close on Tuesday 24 July 2018. The findings will be considered and used to help shape services.
More information can be found here.