DOCTORS have extended their opening hours over the Easter holiday period in a bid to relieve pressure on casualty departments across Surrey.

The extra appointments at weekends and during the evenings will mean patients will have more access to a GP without having to seek medical advice at Accident and Emergency (A&E).

Hospitals faced a sharp increase in the numbers of people going to emergency departments over the Christmas period, and in January patients at Surrey’s hospitals experienced record waiting times.

Figures showed one in 10 patients waited more than four hours in A&E. All five hospital trusts in Surrey failed to reach the local target of 95% of patients being seen in under four hours.

To combat potentially high patient numbers over Easter some of Surrey’s Clinical Commissioning Groups have adopted the GP Extended Access Clinics programme.

Dr Charlotte Canniff, clinical chair for North West Surrey CCG, said: “These GP Extended Access Clinics are within local GP practices and the clinician who sees you will have access to your GP records making the appointment just like visiting your own GP practice.”

If no appointments are available at a patient’s own surgery, an alternative slot will be offered at another GP clinic signed up to the programme.

Dr Canniff added: “As a health system, we continue to work hard to reduce the inappropriate use of A&E. These GP Extended Access Clinics have been put in place so that those presenting at A&E are those that really need urgent or emergency help.”

East Surrey CCG has launched a campaign to help people become more aware of all the services available. Using the hashtags #HelpMyAandE and #HelpMyGp on social media they are highlighting alternative services to A&E.

Dr Elango Vijaykumar, clinical chairman of East Surrey CCG and also a GP, said: “The NHS is doing everything it can to cope with the extra pressures we have been facing across the country. The public can ‘HelpMyNHS’ by ensuring they access the right service for their needs at the right time.

“Furthermore, if you can use alternative services across the area you will not only help ensure staff can concentrate on people with serious, life-threatening conditions but also could potentially save yourself a long wait in A&E.”

Surrey Downs CCG is offering appointments during evenings and weekends providing an additional 200 opportunities to be seen by a doctor.

Patients living in and around Epsom will have the option to book an appointment during extended hours with their registered practice in the usual way.

Those in Dorking and East Elmbridge will need to contact their surgery to see if additional appointments are available.

Doctors advise to check with your surgery first, and call the GP out-of-hours service on 111 if extended hours are not available.

Patients have also been warned to check any orders for repeat prescriptions that may be affected by the long weekend and have been reminded the pharmacists can also offer private consultations.

Dr Andy Whitfield, clinical chairman of North East Hampshire and Farnham CCG, said: “Anyone who uses a repeat prescription will be used to filling it and will know how easy this is to do during the normal working week.

“Unfortunately a bank holiday weekend means that GP surgeries and many pharmacies will be closed, and the simple process of obtaining and filling a prescription becomes much more of a challenge, both for the individual and for the health service.”

For pharmacy opening times over the Easter period click here