Why out of hours benefits patients

Many doctors and medical professionals are beginning to see the benefits of out of hours care from their own perspectives, but what about the patients? For many people, out of hours care offers greater flexibility when dealing with medical issues, as well as other benefits. As the government pushes for seven-day NHS services, a deeper understanding of the benefits to patients could be a good motivator for other GPs to switch to this way of working.


How out of hours works

The growth of GP co-operatives, such as the care provided in East Berkshire, has meant that more and more primary care centres are being formed, offering out of hours services. Outside of regular GP practice hours, phone calls are typically diverted to an out of hours’ service, covering 6.30pm to 8.00am on weekdays and throughout weekends and bank holidays. As well as doctor services, some practices will also offer out of hours dentists, opticians and pharmacies. After an initial phone assessment, patients will be given an appointment, given advice on managing their symptoms through self care until they can see their usual GP, given home visits or transferred to hospitals for more urgent care.


Research into patients views of out of hours care

Whilst internal feedback about from patients is recorded and published by practices, less in known about patients’ experiences of the services on a wider scale. Research undertaken back in 2000 by Guy’s, King’s and St Thomas’ School of Medicine showed that 90% of patients were satisfied with the services received from their out of hours practice, which included a combination of those who attended the practice, those who received telephone consultations and those who received a home visit.

Amongst the key benefits for patients was the fact that they felt they were seen quicker, which outweighed difficulties such as having to find suitable transport or finding care for their children. Many patients also feel that waiting rooms are less crowded, and that they received the support and solutions they needed from their out of hours practice.


Additional benefits of out of hours care to patients

Out of hours care enables patients to get the help they need without having to travel to a GP surgery unnecessarily. Many are able to resolve their problems over the phone, and others can be referred more quickly to urgent care services. If NHS services were to go seven days as hoped by the government, patients would be able to access care around work and other commitments, which could make them more likely to visit their doctor for more serious conditions. Meanwhile, the government hopes that clinical standards will improve by the switch, cutting waiting times for initial consultations to no longer than 14 hours, 24-hours turnaround time for access to diagnostic tests, with shorter targets for more urgent requests.


East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours Services

As part of our dedication to providing good services to patients, we regularly ask for feedback about users’ experiences. Some of our recent feedback has included:

“I like and prefer coming to this primary care centre, especially for my kids, because it gets very quick to see the doctor and save our time when completed to Walk-In Centre. Thanks.” (Herschel Primary Care Centre in Slough)

“Just to say extremely pleased with service. I have had to use it for my children on a few occasions and know they will be treated with patience and compassion and professionalism. Thank You.” (St Marks Urgent Care Centre in Maidenhead)

“A wonderful service – fast, efficient, polite and professional. A huge improvement on waiting in A&E (the alternative) and a great deal faster. I’m thrilled to know the service exists, though hope we won’t need to use it again!” (King Edward VII Primary Care Centre in Windsor)

Whilst out of hours care shouldn’t be used as a substitute for self-care or even for emergency and urgent healthcare treatment, out of hours services can be a flexible option for patients.


Finding out more about out of hours work

GPs interested in working out of hours can find a number of resources online to learn more about the benefits and the nature of out of hours work. Our recruitment website has details of available out of hours posts, as well as articles featuring more information about the advantages of undertaking out of hours work at East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours Services.