Extended Access

Our Extended Access service provides extra appointments for patients when their local GP is closed.

Working from a central hub, our team work to meet same-day need. Quick access to treatment increases patient satisfaction and also reduces unnecessary A&E visits.

What does it mean?

Increasing the availability of appointments to patients was a key aim of the 2016 NHS General Practice Forward View.

The report acknowledged this was a point of frustration for patients – both in terms of quantity and timing of appointments – and was in part responsible for a decline in overall patient satisfaction.

The solution was a new model for out of hours care, with new services developed and commissions.

In Durham Dales, this has led to the introduction of two similar but separately commissioned services, both of which we deliver on behalf of our 12 member GP practices.

How it works

The two individual services are Extended Primary Care Access (EPCA) and Extended Hours Access, part of the Primary Care Network (PCN) agreement.

Our EPCA service provides same day appointments between 6pm and 8pm during the week, plus weekend mornings. Patients access appointments by calling 111 and will be triaged into an available slot, if required. We also offer an overflow service if people need same day treatment but can’t be seen in their practice.

Extended Hours Access offers pre-bookable appointments outside of standard hours, also fulfilled by our hub in Bishop Auckland. Slots can be booked through local practices, or by calling 111 outside of normal opening hours.

Both services use a triage system and do not offer walk in appointments. 

This means that every appointment is someone who needs to be seen, while those who don’t can be directed to more appropriate services such as pharmacists or self-care options.

How it helps

DDHF work at scale and providing these services for practices means they do not need to recruit staff and manage appointments for just a few extra hours every day.

Practices can rely on us to deliver a consistent, high-quality service with staff recruitment, management and development built in.

For patients there is a clear clear path to appointments outside of their GP’s normal hours. 

Despite being two separately commissioned services, the path to access both of them for patients is the same – GP first when they are open, 111 when they are not. This makes raising public awareness easier as they can be promoted as a broad ‘Extended Access’ package.

The number of extra appointments the services offer – more than 14,000 from April ‘17 to December ‘19 – means that pressures on GP practices and secondary care services like A&E are also eased.


out of hours increase from 2018 to 2019
average monthly overflow appointments
average monthly Out of Hours appointments