PRIMARY CARE: Patients across Leicester have been offered increased weekend access to a number of GP practices as part of a pilot scheme running until the end of February.

Six GP practices across the city will extend their opening hours on certain Saturdays and Sundays as part of an initiative to increase access to primary care.

Patients are able to attend any of the participating surgeries, even if they are not registered at that particular practice.

The exact cost of the initiative will be determined following an evaluation of its uptake by patients, an NHS England spokesman has said.

The practices participating in the scheme are:

  • The Willows Medical Centre;
  • Pasley Road Health Centre;
  • Shefa Medical Practice;
  • Sayeed Medical Centre;
  • Melbourne Road Health Centre; and
  • Highfields Medical Centre, part of the Merlyn Vaz Health Centre.  

The project could potentially be repeated next year following an evaluation of patient response, a Leicester City Clinical Commissioning Group spokeswoman said.

She added: “The majority of practices are using the same system to store their patient’s details and this is accessible by all practices in the city.”

The extended opening hours pilot will be funded locally by NHS England from cash set aside especially to back to support such programmes, the NHS England spokesman said.

He added: “The scheme will initially run as a pilot initiative until the end of March and funding for the programme will be based on patient response to the service.”  

Azhar Farooqi, chair of Leicester City CCG, said: “Offering weekend GP appointments at these six city practices, means patients have a wider choice of where to get help and advice about health conditions this winter.

“We know patients look to their GP for reassurance and they want be able to get an appointment when they need one. This new weekend opening scheme goes some way to help meet patients’ expectations.”

Leicester City CCG represents 62 GP practices and serves a population of approximately 375,800 patients.