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Sussex GPs cut down on out of hours provision
The number of doctors’ surgeries in Sussex offering appointments outside normal working hours has dropped by 15% in the last five years.
It comes despite efforts urging more people to use GP, community and pharmacy services at weekends and evenings instead of going to already over-stretched hospital accident and emergency departments.
Practices have the option to have appointments earlier in the mornings and in the evenings as well as on Saturday mornings.
However, figures show that only 176 practices in the county are offering this service now compared to 208 five years ago.
Health bosses say the number of practices offering the service is still high, at more than 80%, and this is helping ease the pressure on A&E.
The fall is partly blamed on the GP contract introduced under the previous Government administration that gave |doctors the choice to opt-out of providing extended services.
Opponents of the current Government’s decision to reorganise the NHS say it has led to health officials allowing the |system to drift. They say the decision to stop the national monitoring of GP opening hours sent out the wrong signal and patients could pay the price.
A spokesman for the Patient Action Group in Sussex said: |“One of the reasons people say they go to A&E is because they cannot get a GP appointment and they don’t want to wait. That is not the right thing at all and this needs to be sorted out.”
NHS Sussex, responsible for overseeing health services across the county, said there were plenty of out-of-hours services available. A spokeswoman said: “The NHS works hard to ensure that you can see a GP quickly and at a time that suits you. Over 80% of GP practices across Sussex offer appointments at weekends or early mornings or evenings.
“There are also walk-in centres in Brighton, Crawley, Eastbourne and Hastings which are open 8am to 8pm seven days a week including bank holidays.
“Outside normal surgery hours you can still phone your GP surgery, and you will be directed to an out-of-hours |service.”