DOCTORS’ surgeries across Copeland are facing “growing pressures” including increasing demand and vacancy rates of almost 40 per cent, health chiefs have revealed.

Cumbria County Council’s Health Scrutiny Committee is due to consider the findings of the NHS North Cumbria Clinic Commissioning Group at a meeting next week.

Health chiefs are now looking at “innovative ways” of offering improved access to patients after feedback from seven practices across the borough.

Under the plans, GP surgeries will be allocated resources “proportionate” to the number of patients on their list.

The Same Day Health Care (SHD), which went live in February, has been described as an “important step” in the creation of an “urgent care hub” bringing together health care services for west Cumbria.

The SHD Centre, led by Copeland GPs, is based in the outpatient department at Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital.

Health bosses believe this new model will help strengthen the relationship between GPs and hospitals and specialists in Copeland.

The improved access to same day services is intended to make sure patients are seen promptly, shortening their journeys and slashing the demand faced by acute services.

But the situation is challenging, with primary care under “significant strain”, a problem compounded by the high GP vacancy rate in Copeland.

The SDH Centre is intended to offer a “safety net” for all Copeland practises and their patients.

The seven Copeland GP surgeries now have access to the same electronic appointment system for urgent on the day appointment requests.

This will allow those needing help “triaged” – seen quickly and in order of priority – by their GP practice and directed to the SHD Centre.

The service is available from Monday to Friday from 2pm to 8pm, providing urgent GP, nurse practioner and physiotherapy appointments.

And from 5pm, routine practice nurse and healthcare assistant appointments are also offered, while staff working at the SDH Centre swill have “full access” to patients’ care records.

The service offers around 1,300 appointments every month, with take-up now running at 85 per cent of capacity.

The report reveals that patients from all seven practices have accessed the SDH Centre, with the highest proportion of these coming from Fellview (44 per cent and the lowest proportion coming from Distington Surgery (3 per cent).

These attendance figures are “consistent” with the practice populations and GP vacancy rates, according to the report.

The findings reveal that patient feedback for the service has been “overwhelmingly positive”, with 97 per cent of the questionnaires returned giving the service a five-star rating and the remaining three per cent giving it a four-star rating.

Patients were also asked what they would have done had they not been seen at the SDH Centre.

Forty per cent said they would have attended the Cumbria Health on Call, and 25 per cent saying they would have gone to Accident and Emergency.

The remaining 35 per cent said they would have waited to see their GP on another day.

Patients attending the SHD Centre

n Fellview Healthcare (Flatt Walks Clinic, Whitehaven; Beach House, Egremont; Cleator Moor Health Centre; and Griffin Close, Frizington) – 43 per cent

n Lowther Medical Centre, Whitehaven – 29 per cent

n Mansion House Surgery, Whitehaven – 12 per cent

n Queen Street Surgery, Whitehaven – Seven per cent

n Seascale Surgery – Four per cent

n Westcroft House Surgery – Three per cent

n Distington Surgery – Two per cent