Sunderland patients could get longer appointments with their GP

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Patients in Sunderland could get longer appointments with their GPs under plans being drawn up by health chiefs.

But achieving this would probably mean fewer people treated by family doctors in the first place.

Instead, those needing care could be directed to pharmacists or nurses to ease the pressure on practices.

Scott Watson, director of contracting and informatics at Sunderland Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), was speaking at Wednesday night’s meeting of Sunderland City Council’s Health and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee.

“We’re aspiring that GP appointments will become longer,” he said, “but to do that we have to take away some of the burden of things GPs do.

“On any given day, between a third and half of GP appointments are used by people who don’t actually need to see a GP.

“If you start putting into use more appropriate services you can free up GPs’ time to spend with other patients.

“That’s a longer-term strategy, but one we accepts need to improve.”

Mr Watson suggested appointments could get longer after Coun Barbara McClennan challenged him over figures showing Sunderland among the worst in England for dementia checks carried out by GPs.

She claimed few patients visit their doctor with the intention of being assessed for dementia and that this is more often picked up during appointments for other issues.

James Harrison, Local Democracy Reporting Service