ALMOST 1,000 patients have seen a GP at the weekend in Castle Point and Rochford, thanks to a trial scheme that has been running for three months.

The service is being tested by Castle Point and Rochford Clinical Commissioning Group, offering access to a GP and a nurse between 10am and 3pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

Appointments are available at Essex Way Surgery, in Benfleet, and Ashingdon Medical Centre, in Rochford.

They usually need to be prebooked, although a number of appointments are available on the day.

The service is available to patients with 19 of the 26 GP practices in Castle Point and Rochford, with more practices joining soon.

Since the beginning of July, more than 950 patients have been seen at weekends at the two surgeries by nurses and GPs from the participating practices, working on a rota basis.

Dr Sanj Chana is a GP at Rushbottom Lane Surgery, in Benfleet, and medical lead for the weekend scheme.

He said: “The weekend service is about improving access for patients. It’s needed and it’s something we need to have.

“Not everyone needs to go to A&E, if they are unwell at a weekend or can’t get to an appointment in the week.

“The idea is that we work alongside the hospital by seeing patients who don’t need to go there and can come to us instead and, hopefully, it should free up some capacity.

“This won’t affect services during the week, because of the number of practices involved it spreads the workload.”

The service will be available to patients for the foreseeable future and the clinical commissioning group will continue to monitor its success.

Dr Chana said: “At the moment, GP surgery practice times will be unchanged and patients can still see their usual GP in the week, but there is a definite demand for weekends.

“From personal experience, there are patients who like to see their own GPs and do so during extended surgery hours during the week, but for the ones who are unable to do that and don’t mind seeing another GP, they can book appointments at a weekend.

SOUTHEND patients can already make use of two practices offering weekend appointments.

The practices in Northumberland Avenue and St Luke’s Health Centre offer the service.

Melanie Craig, chief officer at Southend clinical commissioning group, said: “We did pilot a weekend service at the Southend Medical Centre last winter, but, despite being very well publicised, the service was poorly used and so the pilot was discontinued.

“We are now trying other ways to improve access to local GPs. As an example, Southend received funding to trial the Babylon phone app at a number of practices and this is already having a positive impact on the availability of appointments at those practices.”