OUT of hours GP services in County Durham could be scaled back because NHS managers say not enough appointments are being made.

There are currently nine GP “hubs” across the Durham dales, Easington and Sedgefield areas, which open for extended hours in the evening and at weekends and have been operating since April 2017.

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Dr Stuart Findlay, the chief officer of Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield Clinical Commissioning Group

But the clinical commissioning group (CCG) for the area wants to reduce the number of hubs because it say the percentage of appointments being used in some areas is as low as 20 per cent and wants to stop services in Barnard Castle, Stanhope and Easington.

Dr Stewart Findlay, chief officer of the CCG said: “Our priority is to commission services that reflect the health needs of our entire population. It is clear from the numbers we are seeing in the current nine hubs that many of the appointments we made available were not being utilised and this is simply not a good use of NHS resources and the valuable skills of our healthcare professionals.

“We believe that the changes we are proposing will ensure that people will be seen at the right place, by the right healthcare professional at a time and location that will be convenient for them.”

In the Durham dales areas, it is being proposed that hubs in Barnard Castle and Stanhope, where 21 per cent of appointments were taken up, should cease to operate.

Out of hours appointments would be available during the week and at the weekend at Bishop Auckland Hospital, where 86 per cent of appointments were used.

A spokesperson for the CCG said: “The demand on services are much greater in Bishop Auckland, a main town in the Durham Dales area with good transport links.

“However, we do not wish to disadvantage the more rural sites therefore, where needed, we are committed to bring services to those patients, improve patient transport and listen to anything that patients think we have not considered.”

In east Durham, the CCG wants to stop out of hours appointments in Easington and weekday appointments in Seaham, while services in Peterlee would continue.

In Sedgefield, services would continue at the weekend but not during the week while hubs in Newton Aycliffe and Spennymoor would continue to offer out of hours services at the weekend and during the week.

The CCG is also considering altering opening times at all six hubs offering weekend services from 8am-1pm to 10am-2pm and is also looking at how it could provide additional services like home visits for frail and housebound patients, pre-bookable appointments and help with transport.

A consultation closes on Wednesday, December 19.