All the doctors surgeries in Brighton and Hove now offer evening and weekend appointments for patients.
But too few patients seem to be aware of the out of hours options, a meeting of Brighton and Hove health chiefs was told this afternoon (Tuesday 11 December).
The Brighton and Hove Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) had set a target for all surgeries to offer extended hours by the start of October.
The CCG’s Primary Care Commissioning Committee said that the target had been met.
Mike Holdgate, the deputy chair of the committee and patient participant group representative, said that most people did not know that the service was available.
He said: “It is one thing to talk about achieving targets and another thing patients knowing about it.
“If you’re standing at the door of your GP service and walk in as a patient and asked for an appointment, you need to go to the receptionist and know how to ask the right questions.
“If you do ask the right questions, you might find there are 10 appointments available on a Saturday when you’re there on a Thursday.”
Mr Holdgate said that he had first-hand experience of this and was sent to another surgery to take advantage of a weekend appointment.
Jimmy Burke, senior manager of primary care commissioning at the CCG, told the committee that in October four out of five evening and weekend appointments were filled.
He said: “There is a job to be done when it comes to awareness.
“We are putting details in waiting rooms and a national campaign will be rolled out but this has not happened yet.”
Brighton GP (general practitioner) Jim Graham said that some areas of the country were not as advanced when it came to offering the extended hours.
Dr Graham said: “Brighton and Hove is the vanguard for this but the criticisms are valid. Part of the problem is this is still in the early days.”
The new service allows for 30 minutes per 1,000 patients, with plans to increase this to 45 minutes from January.
New funding of £580,000 is covering the cost of the service, provided by healthcare company Here.
The not-for-profit company, which is based in Preston Road, is a healthcare provider owned by Brighton and Hove GPs, practice managers and nurses.
Here is to be given a 12-month extension to its contract to offer the service once its current contract runs out next April.
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