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Enhancing health and social care services in west Kent - changes to the out-of-hours GP-led service

User AvatarPosted by Amanda Crawford at 11/05/2018 10:03:21

As part of plans to improve health and social care in west Kent, NHS West Kent Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) is making changes to the GP out-of-hours bases, where face-to-face appointments are provided when patients’ own practices are closed.

From 1 June 2018, GP-led out-of-hours services will be relocated to Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells (Pembury) hospitals.

Out-of-hours GP-led services are accessed via NHS 111 and, if required, offer people appointments with a GP or nurse. Locating the service at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals will enable people to access further testing such as X-rays and to receive consultant expertise more quickly, if needed.

To support the relocation, out-of-hours GP appointments will no longer be available at Tonbridge Cottage Hospital or in Sevenoaks after 31 May 2018. There will continue to be an out-of-hours home visiting service across west Kent, to help housebound people.

The changes to the service are part of plans to improve urgent and local care – care provided in people’s communities rather than in a main hospital – in west Kent. This includes extending access to local GP services until 8pm Monday to Friday and also offering some weekend appointments, with effect from October 2018.

The relocation of out-of-hours GP bases is the first stage in the development of urgent treatment centres at Maidstone Hospital and Tunbridge Wells Hospital, which are expected to fully open by April 2019.

At the urgent treatment centres:

·         GPs and nurses will see and treat all patients who do not need to be seen by the emergency department,

·         mental health workers will assess people with a mental health need,

·         social care workers and therapists will be part of the team, offering advice and support to patients,

·         there will be improved facilities for the assessment and treatment of both children and frail patients.

The urgent treatment centres will work very closely with the hospitals and GP practices. Health and social care professionals in the urgent treatment centres will have access to patients’ medical records (if they give consent.)

Dr Mark Whistler, urgent care clinical lead for NHS West Kent CCG, said: “We have discussed the plans to relocate out-of-hours GP-led services with people in west Kent over a number of years, and with the Kent Health Overview and Scrutiny Committee, who were clear it was not something they needed to be formally consulted about. The public has told us they would prefer to travel to one place, rather than risk going to see the out-of-hours GP and being sent on to the emergency department at one of the main hospitals.

“Initial timelines for changes to the out-of-hours services were suggested at public listening events held last summer. As a first step, the base in Cranbrook, which offered appointments at weekends and on bank holidays, was relocated in December 2017. The relocation of the base in Sevenoaks has been brought forward as Integrated Care 24, provider of the GP-led out-of-hours service, is facing challenges staffing the service.

“People who become ill or injure themselves when their GP practice is closed should call NHS 111 unless it is a 999 emergency, as they do now. NHS 111 will give advice and book an appointment with the out-of-hours GP-led service at Maidstone or Tunbridge Wells Hospital, if required, or arrange a home visit.

“For a long time we have known that significant numbers of people come to the emergency departments when they don’t have a strict medical need to do so, because they don’t know what else to do or want the reassurance of being seen at a hospital. We are delighted to be creating urgent treatment centres at the two main hospitals in west Kent, which are a really exciting development and will make a big difference to patient care and experience. From October 2018, some GP practices in each of the seven geographical ‘GP cluster’ areas in west Kent are going to be offering appointments until 8pm Monday to Friday, with some weekend slots available. Evening and weekend appointments at those practices will be available for patients registered with any of the practices in that cluster.

“Not only will these developments help people to receive the right care, first time but they will also make better use of the staff available and make sure people get a consistent 24-hour GP-led service from both Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells hospitals and more integrated care.

“Once the urgent treatment centres are open, patients who come to the hospital but need to see a nurse or GP, will do so. Then, if it turns out their case is more serious than it might appear, they can be swiftly moved into the emergency department, where the consultant-led teams will take care of them.”

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