Do you know who to call if your GP practice is closed?

 When your GP practice closes, primary care doesn’t stop. The vital out of hours service means Thurrock residents can see a clinician 24 hours a day, seven days a week. In Thurrock, this service is provided by IC24.

The out of hours service at Thurrock Community Hospital is open for business from 6.30pm to 8am Monday to Thursday and from 6.30pm Friday to 8am Monday morning. Patients can access the service by calling NHS 111 who will then direct them to IC24.

Dr Mark Metcalfe, an out of hours doctor, outlines what the service does: “We don’t see cases where an ambulance or A&E is needed as this is arranged via 111, and similarly if a patient can wait until the next day or a few days they don’t come through to us either, so we are seeing a 'middle ground' of patients: not so sick that they need A&E/ambulances, but with symptoms enough that we don’t want to leave them until the next day to be assessed by a doctor.

“Broadly there are three groups of patients that we often see, children whose parents are worried, elderly whose carers/family are worried, and patients who have difficulty seeing their own doctor (either through lack of appointments or because they work). Children and the elderly can become unwell quickly so parents/carers often find the illness occurs in the evening and they do not want to wait until the morning. Most patients are grateful for the service and a lot of our work is about giving reassurance and advice.”

The out of hours service is open during the time that your GP practice is closed, which means that in reality, everyone in Thurrock can have access to a clinician 24/7. Dr Metcalfe explains a normal shift: “For most shifts we see a simillar sort of pattern. We start at 6.30pm and usually there are a lot of cases coming through initially in the first hour. After that, there is a steady flow of cases coming through either as appointments or needing telephone advice, although we also do visits to people who are housebound or too unwell to travel.”

If you can’t see your GP and it’s not an emergency, remember to call NHS 111 who will direct you to the most appropriate NHS service.

Three things to remember – Out of hours GP service

•Call NHS 111 to access the service (free even from mobiles);
•Appointments can only be made via NHS 111 and are held at Thurrock Community Hospital;
•The service is open from 6.30pm to 8am the following day Monday to Thursday and 6.30pm Friday until 8am Monday morning.

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