A GP service has been launched at A&Es in the region in a bid to ease pressures on the service this winter.

The extra doctors started working in A&Es in Durham and Darlington last month.

Patients cannot make appointments with the doctors and are urged to attend their own GP surgery if they do not need emergency care.

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The "primary care streaming" is aimed at assessing patients quicker and helping the departments at Darlington Memorial and the University Hospital of North Durham meet their targets during the winter months.

Shaz Afzal, clinical director for emergency care at County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We have been sending the message to the public only to use our service if they are really sick but in addition to that we have changed how we work, especially at the front door. We have GPs working along with us, as well as nurse practitioners.

"It's not a substitute for a GP surgery but it's for patients we just can't send away."

The service was introduced on October 1 and means GPs are working in the departments between 8am and 11pm each day, with nurses to assist in getting patients treated as quickly as possible.

Mr Afzal added: "So far we have been able to achieve our figures. After the first month it is going very well.

"It will definitely help us this winter.

"There is a national trend of increasing number of patients coming through the doors. We are not alone, every emergency department is subject to great pressure.

"It is early days but our plan is to continue the service all year round."

Additional funding from the Government was announced in June to develop primary care streaming at hospitals across the country in a bid to help them hit their targets of admitting, transferring or discharging 95 per cent of patients within four hours.

As part of the announcement, the trust was given £981,560 to develop the service in Darlington and £825,500 for Durham.

The A&E in Durham is due to be replaced as it is currently dealing with around double the number of patients as it was designed for.

In January, the trust was given planning permission for new £30m emergency department, combining the A&E and urgent care centre, which would be built next to the current building, on the site of Dryburn House.

A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We’re continuing to progress our proposals for the development of the Emergency Department at University Hospital of North Durham.

"This includes looking at the options for the layout of the various clinical areas so that our patients are cared for by the right person in the right place at the right time.”

It is still not known when work will start on the new build.