B&NES’ Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) says it will be much easier for people living in B&NES to book an appointment to see a GP, nurse or other health professional during the evenings and weekends this winter, thanks to a new initiative to help health and care providers across the region cope with increased demand for services.

Surgeries and practices have now made it easier for people to book appointments at times ranging from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. during weekdays, and 8 a.m. to 12 noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

The new initiative to make it easier to see a GP or nurse is part of a range of measures introduced across the B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) to ensure people stay well, stay out of hospital and help reduce the increase in demand for health and care services during the winter months.

Other initiatives include encouraging eligible patients to take up the offer of a free flu jab, highlighting the importance of talking to a local pharmacist for advice before minor ailments or winter illnesses get worse, and raising awareness of the NHS 111 telephone and online service, which directs patients to the most appropriate service.

Dr Ian Orpen, a GP based in Bath and Chair of B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire STP’s Clinical Board, said: “Many people across our region find it hard to access GP appointments during normal appointment times, and this initiative will be an enormous help to them. Winter is always a challenging time for the health service, and it’s important that people in our region avoid getting unwell as far as they possibly can.

“Ultimately, we want to ensure that people who are most at risk of preventable emergency admissions to hospital over winter are aware of and, where possible, motivated to take actions that avoid that happening.”

Dr Andrew Smith, Chief Executive Officer of B&NES Enhanced Medical Services (BEMS), a local GP federation which is currently providing extra appointments on behalf of nineteen practices across B&NES, with the remaining five to offer the service shortly, said: “Patients may need to attend a different GP surgery, but staff of the services will have access to their full medical records. Patients will need to book with their usual practice, by phone, during normal working hours.”