Opinion: Should hours at under-used GP Access Hubs be reduced?

PUBLISHED: 08:00 21 January 2018


It has been recognised nationally that GP workload has been increasing and practices are struggling to meet demand, especially for same day appointments.

GP Access Hubs were set up across the country to ensure patients can be seen urgently without placing additional pressure on overstretched practices.

In Brent, the local NHS Clinical Commissioning Group (Brent CCG) wants to make GP services more accessible and to meet the needs of local residents. The registered population in Brent has grown by 7.4 per cent in the last four years and, with demographic growth and regeneration and housing projects, the demands on GP services will inevitably continue to grow.

There are currently nine GP practices in Brent acting as GP Access Hubs. This is a service that is funded by Brent CCG, with the aim of releasing some pressure on practices and ensuring that people have access to GP and nurse appointments in the evenings and weekends. Patients can call their own GP practice or dial 111 to get an appointment in the hub.

So what’s changing in Brent? The nine hubs are currently under-utilised, which means appointments often go to waste as well as valuable GP time. It also means public money is not being used as efficiently as it could be.

The CCG’s proposed revised model hopes to condense these appointments across a fewer number of sites, five in total, to enable more consistent opening hours and appointments at times, when people need them, for example, after-school or early evening. Three of the sites have been fixed in line with the CCG’s estate strategy, namely Wembley Centre for Health and Care, Willesden Centre for Health and Care and Central Middlesex Hospital (where a GP practice is due to open early this year).

The other two sites will be determined following the outcome of the CCG’s engagement with residents and other key stakeholders, but one will likely be located in the north of the borough and one in the south to ensure equity of access.

Additionally, the GP Access Centre (walk-in service) at the Wembley Centre for Health and Care will become a pre-bookable service, which means the Brent residents won’t have to wait as long to be seen and the GP will be able to provide a full range of services.

As part of the proposed revised model, Brent CCG have been undertaking a series of engagement with residents and key stakeholders about their proposals, which concluded earlier this month, and the responses they have received will form part of a report that will go to their governing body to consider and make a decision.

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