SPECIAL out-of-hours medical cover will be provided for 47,000 North-East people in a trial scheme on Bank Holiday Monday.

Patients on the lists of 11 GPs' surgeries in the south of Sunderland will be offered cover in the pilot service, using local doctors for medical advice and treatment.

Anyone needing emergency medical attention can make an appointment to see a doctor at a surgery set up specially for the day.

Home visits can also be arranged for those unable to attend the surgery, with cover provided by doctors on call, on a Bank Holiday rota system.

Emergency calls for medical services outside normal hours are usually answered by a regional doctors' deputising service, with doctors attending often coming from out of the immediate area.

One of the GPs behind the scheme is Dr Mohammed Ela, of Pallion Health Centre, who said there was widespread support for the service among his colleagues in local surgeries.

He said: "A locally-based out-of-hours service provides patient access to proper surgery and medical facilities and will improve response times.

"Importantly, the doctor who deals with the patient will be able to consult fully with their own doctor to ensure continuity of care."

Christine Boston, service administrator, said: "If patients require a doctor on Bank Holiday a telephone call to their usual surgery will give them another number to call for emergencies."