Patients will be able to access an improved range of healthcare services from April 2019, after NHS East Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Group (ELR CCG) unveiled plans to develop out-of-hours healthcare services in the area.
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.
Under the plans, a new urgent care centre will be opened in the Blaby district area, existing services will be extended in Lutterworth, and opening hours of current urgent care services will be changed to make services easier to navigate for patients and make best use of NHS resources.
The plans also include ELR CCG’s commitment to work with GP practices to improve access to appointments for patients on weekdays between 8.30am and 6.30pm.
The plans have been announced following a period of engagement with members of the public earlier this summer. 775 people shared views via a survey and people also had the opportunity to attend public meetings and speak with CCG staff who visited towns across East Leicestershire and Rutland. People’s views have been taken into account in the redesign of the service.
The changes will come into effect after the contracts for the existing services come to an end in March 2019.
The new urgent care centre in the Blaby district area will be opened after data showed there is demand for a new site there. In the survey, 95% of respondents living in North Blaby and 69% of respondents living in South Blaby said they would use an urgent care centre if one opened in the district area. ELR CCG plans to carry out further engagement with people living in the Blaby district area to help understand where best to locate the service, which will be based in an existing building.
Patients in Lutterworth will benefit from an urgent care centre with extended opening hours. The town’s GP out-of-hours service, which is currently open from 10am to 4pm at weekends and on bank holidays, will operate extended opening hours from 9am to 7pm at weekends and on bank holidays. It will also be made easier for patients to access the service, with options to walk-in, appointments offered via NHS 111 or pre-booked via their GP practice.
In June 2018 ELR CCG asked the public for their feedback on initial proposals to reduce the opening hours of urgent care centres in Melton Mowbray, Oakham and Market Harborough at weekends and on bank holidays so that the sites would be open from 9am to 5pm instead of 9am to 7pm.
However, following feedback from the survey, in which 39% of survey respondents said that the changes to weekend and bank holiday opening hours would have a negative impact on them, and 88% of respondents said that having a service open after 5pm on weekends and on bank holidays was important or very important to them, ELR CCG has announced it will not change weekend and bank holiday openings hours.
The plans announced in June to remove the overlap of opening hours at urgent care centres in Melton Mowbray, Oakham and Market Harborough when GP practices are still open (from 5pm to 6.30pm on weekday evenings) have been approved.
The proposals to remove the overlap came about after figures showed urgent care centres in East Leicestershire and Rutland are not widely used during these periods. Half (51%) of appointments at urgent care centres in Melton Mowbray (50%), Oakham (65%) and Harborough (38%) are not used during these periods.
In the survey, respondents said removing the overlap on weekday evenings when GP practices are open would have no impact (50%) or a positive impact (20%) on them.
ELR CCG hopes that opening urgent care centres from 6.30pm to 9pm on weekday evenings will reduce confusion around where people should access services. Two-thirds (66%) of survey respondents said the change would help to reduce confusion over where people should go for urgent care needs. Although there was support for the plans, some people expressed concern about access to GP practices during these times.
ELR CCG says removing the overlap of opening hours will make best use of NHS resources and improve continuity of care with more patients being seen by their own GP practice. ELR CCG will be investing to improve access to on-the-day appointments in general practice. Practices will also be required to open until 6.30pm on weekday evenings, and the availability of appointments during this period will be monitored by the CCG.
There will be no changes to the urgent care centre in Oadby, which will continue to open on weekdays from 8am to 9pm and at weekends and on bank holidays from 8am to 8pm.
The plans will also help remove technical inefficiencies by combining the current out-of-hours GP service with the nurse-led urgent care service, which operate under different contracts.
Clinical signposting, where a patient’s needs are assessed to ensure they access the most appropriate service, will be introduced with a clear focus on ensuring every patient is treated in the right place for their needs as quickly as possible.
Tim Sacks, Chief Operating Officer at ELR CCG said: “We are keen to ensure that our urgent care services meet people’s needs while providing high-quality, cost-effective services. Over the last few months we’ve been hearing patients’ views about our proposals for urgent care services in East Leicestershire and Rutland.
“We’d like to thank everyone who shared their views with us. We’ve listened to the feedback we received and have developed our plans to reflect what people have told us.
“The changes will ensure patients have access to high-quality local services which are easy to navigate and make best use of NHS resources.
“We’re now keen to keep the conversation going around the development of our urgent care services, and will be speaking to patients in the Blaby district area to ask their views about the new urgent care centre there.”
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.
Housebound patients will continue to be able to access a 24/7 urgent care visiting service by calling NHS 111.