A WATCHDOG has warned that patients are not getting information they need about where to go for treatment if their GP surgery is closed.

Brighton and Hove Healthwatch phoned all of the city’s practices during the evening or at weekends and also checked what their websites said.

The group is now calling on GPs to look at the information they give out and make any necessary improvements.

The city’s clinical commissioning group (CCG) ran an awareness campaign over the winter, highlighting alternative services such as walk in centres and chemists.

This was in a bid to cut the number of people with minor problems turning up at the busy accident and emergency unit at the city’s Royal Sussex County Hospital.

A Healthwatch report states that:

Just 15 out of 53 branches from 46 practices had information on websites about weekend pop-up GP clinics which ran from Boxing Day until May 11 and just six had the facts on their answer phone.

There were only eight instances where the walk-in Brighton Station Health Centre was given as an option for out-of-hours treatment.

Only 34 branches included information about NHS 111 on their websites, and the quality of information varied. The project also found six surgeries appeared to have no surgery website available for patients to view.

The report said: “The information that surgeries provide on the answer phone and on their website is often a first port of call for people without a knowledge of NHS structures, and is a key part of ensuring patients get appropriate care.”

A spokeswoman for the CCG said: “GP surgeries are private businesses and as such we are unable to tell them what to say on their out-of-hours telephone messages or insist that they have a website. We can only make recommendations.

“The CCG will discuss the report with NHS England to ensure all contractual requirements are met.”

The report’s findings have been fed back to each practice and some surgeries have made changes. Practice managers have said they will share the results with patient participation groups and staff.