Extra funding will provide additional GP appointments to help ease winter pressures

Dr Simon Cooke, of Oak Street Medical Centre, helps a patient (posed by model).

Dr Simon Cooke, of Oak Street Medical Centre, helps a patient (posed by model). - Credit: Archant

More GP appointments have been made available to patients across Norfolk and Waveney to help ease winter pressures on the health service.

Dr Simon Cooke, of Oak Street Medical Centre.

Dr Simon Cooke, of Oak Street Medical Centre. - Credit: Archant

Appointments to see a doctor, nurse, a clinical pharmacist, or to book a telephone conversation have been opened up after extra funding was agreed by Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs).

In Norwich, all 23 surgeries will offer extra appointments over the next eight weeks.

For some practices this will be an extra eight to 10 appointments a week (averaging one or two a day), or for larger practices it could be between 25-30 (around five a day).

The total number of extra appointments offered will be around 3,400.

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The arrangements were proposed by GP alliance OneNorwich.

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Dr Simon Cooke, the chairman of OneNorwich said: 'For some time, Norwich general practice has been under huge pressure to meet the workload demands of our increasingly elderly and frail population.

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'Christmas, New Year and winter is always an extremely busy period for the NHS, and we have known since September that this winter could be even more difficult because of the strain of flu virus in circulation. So Norwich general practice is very pleased to contribute still more to help meet the demands on our system, though this will bring with it further strain on already pressured organisations.'

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He said GP appointments needed to be used correctly, and urged patients to consider other treatments first and to cancel unneeded appointments.

He added: 'Only those with serious ongoing problems will normally need to ask for more help from the NHS. We would also ask people to be patient with their general practices when trying to get through on the telephone and not to choose to simply go to local accident and emergency departments in our hospitals with problems that are not emergencies or not accident related.

'Please take advice from NHS 111, your local pharmacist, or your GP surgery before choosing to call an ambulance or going to a hospital casualty department.'

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In north and south Norfolk, the majority of practices signed up to offer three weeks of additional routine appointments from January 2 - 19.

These appointments will be provided during weekday working hours and exact timings are up to each individual practice.

Over the three weeks, it is hoped an extra 702 appointments can be offered in north Norfolk, and 1,006 in south Norfolk.

A CCG spokesman said: 'We are considering options for further funding which may include extension of this scheme in some areas.'

In Great Yarmouth and Waveney, funding has been approved for a maximum of 3,240 appointments between January 2 and 8, and then on each Monday from January 15 to February 5.

In west Norfolk additional appointments are being provided at three King's Lynn practices, between December 22 and January 8, for all west Norfolk patients. These appointments are bookable through patients' own registered practices.

The 111 service and A&E at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital King's Lynn can also book these appointments for patients. The scheme has created an additional 498 appointments over the period.

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West Norfolk CCG expects a further 1000 to 1250 appointments to be offered up to the end of March.

Patients were urged to use services wisely, with the following advice issued:

• Many common ailments can be managed at home with over the counter medicines from your pharmacist, for example coughs, colds, norovirus and dry skin. Please ask your pharmacist.

• You can often treat the flu without seeing your GP and should begin to feel better in about a week. Most people who have flu can look after themselves safely with rest, painkillers and plenty of fluids. People may need to seek medical advice if symptoms do not ease after a week, or if they are pregnant, over 65 or have a long term illnesses, for example heart/breathing complaints.

• Ask your GP practice for an appointment if you really do need to see a doctor or nurse.

• If you are unsure, or if it is urgent and you cannot get a GP appointment, you can call 111.

• The walk-in centre in Norwich is open 7am to 9pm, seven days a week.

• Cromer Minor Injuries Unit at Cromer Hospital is open 8am to 7.45pm, seven days a week.

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