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Sheppey and Sittingbourne patients will have improved access to out-of-hours GP service from April 1, 2014

By Hayley Robinson

The provider of Sheppey and Sittingbourne’s out-of-hours GP service is changing, meaning Islanders will no longer have to travel to Canterbury.

As of 7pm on Tuesday, April 1, patients will still call the free NHS number 111 but if it’s decided they need an appointment, the call will be referred to Medway On Call Care (MedOCC).

It will then arrange for either a doctor’s home visit, an appointment at Sheppey Community Hospital or Sittingbourne Memorial Hospital, or, if it’s between 1am and 7am, invite the patient to its headquarters at Quayside House, Chatham.

It received a good rating. Stock image.
It received a good rating. Stock image.

NHS Swale Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), which plans and pays for the bulk of the area’s health services, agreed to the change at its governing body meeting in November.

The contract for the current provider, IC24, which has bases at Canterbury and Maidstone, ends on Monday.

Dr Adrian Hall, the CCG’s urgent care clinical lead, said: “Although we have been happy with the service IC24 has been providing our patients, we had received comments about people having to travel to Kent and Canterbury Hospital, Canterbury, after 1am which is further than Medway.”

MedOCC, which already provides a range of other services for Swale patients, is on a one-year contract until the service can go out to a full procurement for 2015.

The change is also in line with recommendations from the Sir Bruce Keogh Review into hospital mortality and feedback from the Emergency Care Intensive Support Team.

Both recommended a closer working arrangement between A&E, community services and the out-of-hours service to improve patient experience.

Out-of-hours doctors will still be based at Sheppey Community Hospital at weekends and in the evenings between 7pm and 1am.

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