GP practices are extending their opening hours as part of a bid to help ease pressure on hospitals.

Seventeen surgeries in Brighton and Hove have signed up to a new project working to make it easier for patients to get access to services.

It is hoped providing extra support at practices and in people’s homes will reduce the number of patients having to be admitted to hospital.

Longer opening hours will also mean patients will not go to accident and emergency when their surgery is closed.

It is hoped the scheme will help ease demand on the already overstretched Royal Sussex County Hospital in Brighton, particularly in the busy run up to Christmas and throughout winter.

The first seven practices taking part in the extended primary integrated care (Epic) scheme will go live at the end of the month with the rest following suit in November.

Surgeries involved will come together to offer appointments between 8am and 8pm during the week and for six hours on Saturday and Sunday.

Access to the new service will be available through telephone appointments, email, or online, with same-day appointments and care provided.

The first point of contact will be a GP who will make an assessment on whether the next step should be for a patient to see a doctor, nurse, pharmacist or community navigator.

Navigators, provided by Age UK Brighton and Hove and local charity Impetus, are trained volunteers who can help the elderly or people with long term health problems or complex needs go to the right place to get the extra support they need.

GP and partner Jonathan Serjeant said: “We believe this project will improve access to care and support services, bring better experience and more choice for patients, and will put people in control of their own care and treatment.”

Brighton and Hove’s Epic programme is one of 20 GP collaborations around the country to be awarded government funds to make it easier for patients to use services.

For a list of GP surgeries involved see