An ICB will fund a ‘surge site’ set up last year to relieve overwhelmed GPs and reduce the burden on A&E.
The site was initially funded through the £250m winter access funding provided by NHS England to GP practices last year, but Birmingham and Solihull ICB has agreed to continue funding the site until March 2023.
The surge site was set up by five GP practices in July 2021 in response to huge demand in general practice and now spans six PCNs and 36 practices.
Dr Subeena Suleman, senior GP partner at one of the practices, said that they can send patients there if they run out of appointments, as well as NHS 111 or the nearby Heartlands Hospital if patients turn up who don’t need acute care.
Only face-to-face appointments are offered and clinics are run with local GPs doing additional work, she said.
Initially, the site ran four clinics and later extended to eight clinics per day and four clinics at weekends, offering over 100 appointments a day.
Now the ICB has extended the funding thanks to the impact the surge site has had, it confirmed.
The site has seen over 35,000 patients to date and patient feedback has shown high satisfaction rates with the service.
Dr Suleman said her practice Iridium Medical Practice reviews its appointments daily and in July 2021 had a ‘30% increase in telephone appointments and physically was not able to offer any more appointments’, with a similar situation for other local practices.
She said: ‘Based on this local information and system level pressures, it was decided to set up the surge site.’
Dr Suleman said her practice is still seeing a 30% increase in telephone appointments, saying there is ‘still the increased demand’ despite a ‘slight summer dip’.
She said: ‘Obviously there’s a lot of pressure in general practice and also in A&E. Where we work is a really deprived area, we have a lot higher GP attendance in other areas.
‘It felt like we needed to do something because no matter how hard we worked, there was just no capacity to increase appointments in general practice, so we decided for the whole locality we would put up a surge site where we offer about 140 appointments a day. We link in with A&E and get redirection from them and ambulances as well, and the paediatric assessment unit.’
Located in Westwood Heath, the site’s exact address is not publicly advertised but is given to patients when they are offered appointments.
The latest NHS Digital data revealed that GP practices in England delivered the highest proportion of face-to-face appointments in July since March 2020.
In August, NHS England announced there would be a ‘rapid recruitment’ of up to 2,000 additional prescribing link workers, health coaches and care coordinators among other measures to alleviate GP pressures this winter.
A version of this story was first published on our sister title Pulse.