Extended Access provides appointments for patients across Durham Dales outside of normal GP opening times.

Increasing patients’ access to appointments is a priority in the NHS. While demand has grown, people also need more flexibility around where and when they can be seen. 

What it means

In 2016, the NHS published the General Practice Forward View. 

The report acknowledged that while satisfaction with General Practice was largely high, there was increased frustration about the availability of appointments.

To meet clinical demand new methods needed to be developed, including promoting self-care, triage and a broader workforce to share the load. 

But a key aim remained to make sure that all patients in England had improved evening and weekend access to appointments with GPs and other clinicians. 

How it works

Rather than each of our member practices adding extra hours in the evening or at weekends, DDHF provide a larger scale service on behalf of all 12 practices.

Patients can access these appointments through their usual surgery in the first instance, or through calling 111 if their practice is closed.

Trained staff will ask the nature of their issue and work out the best person to see them, and schedule an appointment at our ‘hub’ at Bishop Auckland Hospital.

Not everyone will need to be seen by a GP, or at all. In some cases a Nurse Practitioner will see patients, or signpost them to a local pharmacist for advice and over the counter medication.

How it helps

The obvious benefit is a clear path for patients to appointments outside of their GP’s normal hours.

With trained staff directing patients to the most appropriate course of action – whether that’s with a GP, another clinician or not needing to be seen at all, people get the help they need quicker.

The squeeze on regular GP appointments is reduced, as are unnecessary A&E visits.

DDHF providing the service on behalf of our 12 member practices is also more efficient, as fewer staff can be recruited to work fuller hours, rather than each practice needing to find the staff capacity themselves.