More GP appointments over winter

All sections of the NHS are always under great pressure during the winter, which is why members of the public are asked to choose services wisely.

  • 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-9pm, 7 days a week.
  • Cromer Minor Injuries Unit at Cromer Hospital is open 8am-7.45pm, 7 days a week.

GP practices were open between Christmas and New Year, with more on-the-day appointments made available. Over Christmas and New Year, the CCGs in Norfolk and Waveney arranged extra capacity in the 111 and out of hours services and also at the walk-in centre in Norwich.

There are additional appointments being made available in GP practices across Norfolk and Waveney, this New Year. These might be appointments to see a nurse, a clinical pharmacist, a doctor or a telephone conversation.

All 23 practices in Norwich have indicated they are willing to offer more appointments over the next eight weeks. For some practices this would mean 8-10 extra appointments per week (averaging 1 or 2 per day) and for larger practices this may mean between 25-30 extra appointments per week (averaging about 5 a day.) The total number of additional appointments offered will be around 3400, over 23 practices over 8 weeks.
The arrangements were proposed by OneNorwich, the alliance of GP Practices which is working to strengthen general practice in the city and improve care for patients.

Dr Simon Cooke, the chair 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. 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.
“Appointments at GP surgeries need to be for the right patients, at the right time, and so we would ask our patients to act wisely, and think:

If you have an appointment, “keep it, or cancel it”

If you are going to make an appointment please think, "3 before GP”. Before booking an appointment with their GP, we would like all patients to ask can I:

  • Manage my problem by looking after myself better, keeping warm, eating, drinking and sleeping sensibly?
  • Seek advice from the Internet on how best to manage my symptoms, and use NHS choices for example to do this?
  • Seek advice/treatment from my local pharmacist or NHS111?

“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. ”

Further measures to increase capacity - the following applies only to central Norfolk (North Norfolk, Norwich, South Norfolk)

There are a large number of schemes being implemented designed to help people stay safe and well and avoid hospital admission. Over Christmas and New Year – among the schemes put in place to help reduce pressures, there was increased capacity in the 111 and out of hours service, more mental health support put into place at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital and welfare checks arranged for vulnerable patients who are known to use A&E regularly to help them stay safe and well and more primary care support for care homes (carried out by NCH&C staff).

Over the next few months a large number of schemes have been planned. Some are yet to be agreed and implemented while others are under way to increase capacity in acute care, mental health and community care. These include:

  • Extending capacity in the NNUH Older People’s Emergency Department and Older People’s Ambulatory Care service
  • Greater capacity in the Emergency Department to speed up handovers from ambulances
  • Opening more ‘escalation beds’ at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital
  • More mental health step down beds
  • Extra patient transport funding to assist with discharges