Patients in Melton are to have reduced access to out-of-hours hospital appointments with GPs and nurses on weekday evenings from April but plans to reduce the opening times for the service at weekends and on bank holidays have been shelved.
NHS East Leicestershire and Rutland Clinical Commissioning Group (ELR CCG) conducted a public engagement exercise into urgent care services after finding that the existing opening hours were not being fully used.
Under the changes, the nurse-led urgent care centre at Melton Hospital on weekday evening will be open 90 minutes later from 6.30pm and run through, as at present, to 9pm. But opening times for weekends and bank holidays will continue to be from 9am until 7pm, with proposals to finish two hours earlier being thrown out.
In the region-wide ELR CCG engagement, 775 people shared their views via a survey and people also had the opportunity to attend public meetings and speak with staff.
The decision to reduce weekday evening hours was taken because half of all available appointments at Melton are not being taken up and that 50 per cent of respondents said having fewer hours wouldn’t have an impact on them.
The ELR CCG say they hope removing the overlap in times when urgent care services and GP practices are open on weekdays, between 5pm and 6.30pm, will reduce confusion around where people should access services.
Two-thirds of survey respondents said the change would make it clearer over where people should go for urgent care needs, although some people expressed concern about access to GP practices during these times.
Patients were clearly against plans to reduce out-of-hours appointments at weekends and on bank holidays, however, with 39 per cent of those who completed the survey saying reduced hours would have a negative impact on them and 88 per cent replying that having the service available after 5pm was ‘important’ or ‘very important’ to them.
Tim Sacks, CEO at the ELR CCG said: “We’d like to thank everyone who shared their views with us.
“We’ve listened to the feedback we received and have developed our plans to reflect what people have told us.
“The changes will ensure patients have access to high-quality local services which are easy to navigate and make best use of NHS resources.”
The altered hours for weekday evenings at Melton will come into effect after the contracts for the existing services finish at the end of March.
Patients will be able to walk-in to access healthcare, and appointments will be offered to those calling NHS 111 if their symptoms require it.
They will also be able to pre-book weekday evening, weekend and bank holiday appointments via their GP practice.
Housebound patients will continue to be able to access a 24/7 urgent care visiting service by calling NHS 111.