Patients will be able to book urgent GP appointments on Saturday and Sunday afternoons as part of a new service which aims to take pressure off A&E departments.
People who can’t wait until their doctor’s surgery re-opens on a Monday morning will be able to get an appointment with a GP local to them under the project which has been launched in Sandwell.
Similar out of hours appointments may be made available elsewhere in the West Midlands to help ease winter pressure on the health service.
Health chiefs at the Sandwell and West Birmingham Clinical Commissioning Group has funded the move through money provided by NHS England.
The CCG is led by doctors and nurses and buys healthcare services for about 530,000 residents in some of the most deprived parts of the country. The urgent weekend appointments cover all patients in the CCG area, until the end of March.
Dr Nick Harding, chair of Sandwell and West Birmingham CCG and a GP in Handsworth Wood, said: “This is one of a range of schemes that we have set up to help ease demand for services this winter, as we recognise that patients may be unsure where to go for urgent advice at weekends.
“We would like to stress that the weekend appointments are for urgent advice that can’t wait until their surgery reopens on Monday mornings.”
Dr Harding added: “We would also like to remind people that A&E is only for serious injuries and illnesses. People have many other options available to them: they can go to their GP, a pharmacy or a walk-in centre, call the 24-hour NHS 111 helpline, or visit the NHS Choices website.”
Dudley CCG spokeswoman Lindsey Harding added that its chiefs would investigate if they could offer the same service.
She added: “We are looking into the scheme Sandwell are running with a view to doing something similar in the future.”
In Cannock, a pilot scheme dubbed GP-in-a-car will launch in January which sees a doctor respond to calls within one hour to ease the burden on A&E admissions. It will cover the patients of 15 doctors’ surgeries.