GP practices offering South Tyneside patients 'hundreds more appointment slots', say health chiefs

Health chiefs say they are working hard to offer patients in South Tyneside more GP appointment slots as national figures show millions are giving up trying to see a doctor after being turned away.

GP practices say they are offering patients hundreds more slots.
GP practices say they are offering patients hundreds more slots.

Figures highlighted Labour show five million patients unable to get a GP appointment in October just gave up, with fears thousands of conditions are going undiagnosed.

One in seven patients did not get an appointment when they tried to book in October 2022, double the amount in October 2021.

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GP ‘league table’ data is now published showing how many appointments each surgery in England is delivering and how long it takes to be seen.

However, GP practices in the North East and North Cumbria say they are offering thousands more appointments outside normal working hours, with most seeing more patients during normal hours than they did before the Covid-19 pandemic.

Health chiefs say latest NHS figures show the region's practices are providing more than 1.5million appointments per month. Around half of these appointments were with GPs, with wider practice staff like nurses, healthcare assistants, physiotherapists and social prescribers also helping many patients.

Around two-thirds of appointments are face-to-face, though bosses say many patients prefer phone or online options where these are right for their needs.

Dr Neil O'Brien, Medical Director for the NHS's North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), said recent changes in South Tyneside have seen an increase of almost 200 appointment slots per week outside normal working hours.

He said this makes it easier for patients to see someone the same day, with a wider range of health professionals including GPs, nurses, social prescribers, musculoskeletal specialists, pharmacists and podiatrists.

"We know it's frustrating if you can't get an appointment as quickly as you'd like, and we're doing everything we can to innovate and improve services,” said Dr O’Brien.

"GPs are the cornerstone of every practice, but modern primary care is much wider than doctors.

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"Practices are triaging every patient so they can see the right person for their needs – this might be a GP or nurse or it could be a pharmacist, physiotherapist or podiatrist.

"We'd like to thank primary care staff for everything they do, and the vast majority of patients for their understanding when local practices are under pressure."