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How much do you know about your local GP Out of Hours service?

Posted on: 27 May 2021

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, several GP Care Group-run services have been working tirelessly to provide uninterrupted care to local residents. One such service is the GP Out of Hours (OOH) team.

We interviewed Jennie Read, GP and Clinical Lead Urgent Care, to shine a spotlight on the service and to give you a peek into the sort of care you can expect from the team.


What is the OOH GP service and who is it for?

The Out of Hours Service (OOHs) was originally organised by a small number of local Tower Hamlets general practitioners in the early 1990s. The service was formed around the idea of providing clinical care to patients who were seeking urgent assistance when their general practice was closed.

By mid-2000, all general practitioners chose to rely upon the OOHs service to provide excellent urgent clinical care at night and at the weekend when they were unavailable. From 2017, the GP Care Group had successfully developed the service retaining the core care principles.  By 2020, the OOHs provided care to the whole Tower Hamlets population of 320,000 residents.

The service is for patients who are GP-registered or non-GP-registered, who are residents, temporarily resident,s or homeless in Tower Hamlets and who are seeking urgent support and clinical advice outside of the usual GP opening times.

Walk-in patients are not accommodated in the Out of Hours service.


How do I access the OOH service?

Seeking support from the OOHs for an urgent [but not an emergency] health concern is straightforward. Simply call the NHS 111 telephone service. The health concern is evaluated and if appropriate, the call is electronically transferred to the Out of Hours service.


Where is the OOH service based?

Part of the newly named Integrated Urgent Primary Care services, the OOHs is co-located within the Urgent Treatment Centre on the ground floor of the South Tower in the Royal London Hospital. It is easily accessible via Stepney Way. The facilities available are adapted for those with physical disabilities and/or require wheelchair access.


What sort of care/treatment does the service provide?

The service is for any urgent medical conditions that cannot wait until your surgery reopens.

There are facilities for the hard of hearing and language line is available for those who would benefit from support.


What health professional will I be able to see? (nurses/GPs)?

The clinical staff are exclusively sessional GPs. Through their training or/and their permanent position, many have a familiarity with the disease profile and health needs of the Tower Hamlets community and have an awareness of the supports offered by the community and social services. 

The administrative staff and the care navigators also have a thorough knowledge and understanding of Tower Hamlets. Their social prescribing skills enable a knowledgeable response to questions and queries on accessing health facilities and programmes.

The OOHs has developed excellent links with partner services and healthcare providers. For example, the team can seek the assistance of the specialities in the Royal London Hospital and the advice of the St Joseph's Palliative care team. There is also direct contact with the community nursing teams.

The team has access to medications most frequently used for urgent conditions such as chest infections and for end-of-life symptom control. Electronic prescribing is also possible enabling a telephone consultation to be accompanied by a prescription to a chemist close to the patient's location. There are procedures for managing adult and child safeguarding concerns.

Patient's registered GP are advised of the nature of the OOHs visit for follow-up the next day.


What are the opening times?

The service is open seven days a week from 6.30pm to 8 am for weekdays and for 24 hours a day during the weekends and bank holidays.


Can I receive a home visit from a GP as part of the service?

That depends on the need. A patient will either receive a telephone consultation, a face-to-face consultation at the OOHs centre, or a home visit. 


Can I bring a child, a friend, or a family member to my appointment?

Recommendations with regard to infection control and the COVID pandemic have influenced who can accompany the patient in a face-to-face consultation and in the reception area.

Visit our Out of Hours service here.