Doncaster doctors plan for weekend and evening opening of surgeries

Primary Care Doncaster has been launched as a federation for Doncaster GP practices. Pictured left to right are director Liz Leggott, chief executive Laura Sherburn, and chairman Dr Dominic Patterson

Doctors are hoping to open longer and free up more patient appointments by using a new organisation representing all surgeries.

Today sees the launch of Primary Care Doncaster - a federation for Doncaster GP practices which offer them support supported and which organisers hope will help bring in some new cash to GP practice services.

Under the scheme, Primary Care Doncaster has been set up by GPs as a company. The member shareholders are the 43 general practices in Doncaster, each holding a share worth £1. Each neighbourhood of practices has elected two directors of the company. These eight directors constitute the board of the company, along with the chief executive, a business manager, and the local medical council secretary, as non-voting board members.

Doctors are hoping that the scheme will allow them to attract more money by allowing them to apply for funding aimed at only larger medical practices.

And they hope it will allow GPs practices to link up to offer shared facilities, with GP surgeries organised into four districts - East, South, Central and North. They are likely to form the basis of the shared facilities.

The first joint funding application has already been made by the federation. It has put in a bid on behalf of eight practices for a clinical pharmacist which would be shared by them. The practices would not have previously been able to make an application, because there is a practice size threshold of 30,000 patients for applicants.

Doctors believe the job will take pressure off the GPs in the eight surgeries as the clinical pharmacist will be able to handle some of the appointments which have been traditionally seen by GPs. This in turn could free-up GP appointments.

Plans are also in the pipeline to use the federation to organise services by surgeries at weekends an in the evenings. The idea would be that a larger pool of doctors would be better able to set up a weekends and evenings rota than the current smaller practices.

And the federation will also provide advice and support to allow doctors to re-organise their practices to maximise appointment times.

Federation chairman, Dr Dominic Patterson, said: "Extended access is going to involve providing more appointments for patients in primary care, not just with GPs but nurses, health care assistants, physios, clinical pharmacists and other professional groups, at weekends and evenings."

Chief executive Laura Sherburn said: "Extended access needs to be working working at scale. It cannot work for 43 practices as individual practices - they wouldn't have enough people or enough money. For it to happen we need a federation of GPs and practices working together. They may not be able to go to their own practice, but the federation will co-ordinate it across hubs."

The federation may also look to help bring in a new class of medical professional known as physicians' associates. They are medical professionals who would work around GPs dealing with minor injuries, but who will not have the power to prescribe. It is looking at the possibility of providing back-up such as professional care for this sort of worker to make it easier for doctors to bring them in.

Federation board member Liz Leggott said: "They could see people who do not need to see a GP. There is an element of breaking down barriers."

Doncaster currently has 12 practices with GP vacancies.and it is felt that posts such as clinical pharmacists and physicians associates could mitigate the issue.

Ms Sherburn said the federation would not be running the GP practices - they would be shareholders in the federation but would have full sovereignty of their own business and would be free to leave if they chose.

But Dr Patterson added: "Doctors practices are overstretched and there is no magic bullet."

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