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Suffolk GP+ service launched by Ipswich MP and Health Minister Ben Gummer

Saturday 17 October 2015

Ben Gummer, Member of Parliament for Ipswich and Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Care Quality, has officially launched Suffolk GP+, the pilot service which gives additional GP appointments on evenings, weekends and bank holidays.

He visited Riverside Clinic in Ipswich to see the service in operation on Saturday 17 October and met the team of doctors, nurses and health care partners involved.

People who urgently need a doctor’s appointment, or can’t see their GP on a weekday, now have access to additional appointments on evenings, weekends and bank holidays. Over 20,000 additional GP appointments will be made available over the course of the nine month pilot in Ipswich and Bury St Edmunds.

Speaking at the launch event, Ben Gummer, Member of Parliament for Ipswich and Under-Secretary of State for Care Quality, said: “It is great to see this new service open. It’s all credit to the imagination and energy of Suffolk GP Federation who have realised the promise that the Government made to people at the election for providing GP access seven days a week, morning, afternoon and evening.”

He added: “It is striking that this improved service should save money across the system as people get the appropriate care, at the appropriate time, which goes to show that we can get even better services in our NHS by doing things differently.”

The appointments can only be booked through the patient’s own local GP practice and are staffed by a rota of Suffolk GPs and Nurse Practitioners at Riverside Clinic in Ipswich (where the service is now open) and in Bury St Edmunds where the service will be offered from November. 

Suffolk GP+ is run by Suffolk GP Federation, a Federation of 61 GP practices in the county who work together to offer local community healthcare services while remaining independent practices. Fifty local Suffolk GPs and Nurse Practitioners have signed up to the Suffolk GP+ bank of doctors. They will continue to work for their own GP practices in the county while also working two or three additional shifts per month for GP+.

Dr Paul Driscoll, Chair of Suffolk GP Federation, said: “We are receiving positive feedback from patients because they are getting a quicker appointment for their medical need. The added benefits are that they see a local Suffolk GP who can access their medical record and update it after their appointment so their registered GP is aware.”

In addition to the appointments being offered via local GP practices, Suffolk GP+ is collaborating with local hospitals and the ambulance service, to help ease pressure on Emergency Departments. 

Dr Paul Kaiser, GP governing body member at NHS Ipswich and East Suffolk Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “People in Suffolk treat their health service with respect, and the majority of people do all the right things to look after themselves. However, when people have tried every other avenue - from eating well, drinking plenty of fluid and getting their immunisations – the next port of call is their family doctor. Having more bookable appointments will give people another option over these winter months.”

Paramedics attending 999 calls have the option to contact Suffolk GP+ where the patient is assessed as needing to see a GP rather than go to A&E. The paramedic will call Suffolk GP+ first, before bringing the patient directly for an appointment.

Patients at Ipswich Hospital (and West Suffolk Hospital from November) who are waiting at A&E and who are assessed as having minor ailments are also being offered an appointment with Suffolk GP+.  

The NHS 111 medical helpline and GP Out-of-Hours services are also collaborating with Suffolk GP+ to enable booking of some patients for appointments if appropriate.

Dr Paul Driscoll, Chair of Suffolk GP Federation, added: “As well as the benefits for the patient’s health in seeing a doctor sooner, we are getting good feedback from healthcare partners such as the ambulance crews and Ipswich Hospital who are valuing the service because it is easing pressure on A&E. This is a nine month pilot and if it goes well we hope to be able to extend it.”

Suffolk GP+ has electronic access to patients’ notes with patient consent so the GP or Nurse Practitioner can quickly understand the patient’s medical background, which helps with assessment and treatment. The notes are updated by Suffolk GP+ so the patient’s own GP knows about the appointment. 

Suffolk GP+ is a pilot scheme running from October 2015 to March 2016*.  

*In March 2016, the scheme was extended for a further 12 months.


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