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Local GP practices join forces for extra opening hours

THREE local GP practices have announced that they are now open to patients for extended hours during both the evening and at the weekend.

Frome Medical Practice has joined forces with the other two surgeries within the local GP Federation, the Beckington Family Practice and the Mendip Country Practice. The Mendip Country Practice is based at Coleford, whilst the Beckington Family Practice has surgeries in Freshford, Frome (their Fromefield surgery is based within the Frome Health Centre building itself) as well as in Beckington.

As a result of these changes, the Frome Medical Practice is now open until 8.00pm to patients from all three practices to see a GP every weekday evening, Monday to Friday. In addition, during Saturday mornings between 8.00am and 12.30pm, patients from all three practices will be able to book an appointment to see a GP. The Saturday morning appointments will take place alternatively at the Mendip Country Practice and the Beckington Family Practice. Details of all these changes are available at all the affected surgeries, as well as being posted in the websites of the three practices.

Dr Helen Kingston, senior partner at Frome Medical Practice said, “As GPs, all of us are of course always keen to support any idea that increases wider patient access. Somerset is one of the pilot areas chosen by the government for the introduction of extended hours. We have therefore worked hard to ensure that the idea of extended hours works, including our staff having undergone further IT training.

“Particularly during the first few weeks, we would ask all of our patients for their forbearance as the new systems bed in. Our patients should however be aware that despite all the extra pressures on staff and GPs, my practice is being given no extra funding or resources to help us implement these changes.’

Dr Piers Jennings senior partner of Mendip Country Practice said, “We are pleased to be working with our fellow practices in East Mendip and to be able to offer improved access to GP appointments for all our patients in the area. General practice is facing a challenging time, but we are trying to work together to meet patient needs and continue to deliver a high quality service to our patients.”

Dr John Beaven of the Beckington Family Practice said, “This local scheme will offer some additional flexibility to our patients seeking an appointment in the evenings and on Saturdays, where they are willing to travel to a neighbouring practice to be seen.

“We hope that this additional service will be enjoyed by our patients. With manpower and financial resources increasingly stretched, the challenge for us will be how to preserve continuity of care and good daytime access, when spreading limited resources across a greater number of hours.”

“These changes being imposed on us do present a huge challenge,” added Dr Kingston. “As dedicated professionals, notwithstanding that our resources are reduced every year, we are determined to meet these challenges ahead, to ensure that all our patients continue to receive a quality of care that really is second to none. However, I would not wish to blind our patients to the fact that it is already difficult enough recruiting doctors to general practice. I personally have real fears that these extended opening hours will simply make recruitment even more difficult. I hope that I am proved wrong.”