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Village practice sees 500 more patients a month, thanks to new space

People in a rural Durham village are enjoying a much wider range of medical services, after their local practice secured extra consultancy space and new services for their patients.

Staff at Pinfold Medical Practice, in the village of Butterknowle, now see hundreds more patients every month, as well as offering a much wider range of services. The practice has gone from providing 1,600 appointments a month to 2,100, with 80% taking place face-to-face.

The new space, which has been secured with funding and support from North East and North Cumbria Integrated Care Board (ICB), has also made it possible to employ an additional permanent GP, which is often difficult in rural locations.

David Purdue, the ICB’s executive chief nurse, said: "We know that people often find it harder than we would like to get an appointment, so it's great that we've been able to help the team at Pinfold to widen their services for patients. The extra space will make a big difference for the local people in the village and the communities nearby.

“Right across the region, we are working hard to improve primary care services and make it easier for patients to get the help and support they need closer to home."

The practice can now offer more mental health support, as well as on-site help from pharmacists, physiotherapists, and bereavement counsellors. As a training practice, the team is also helping to train the next generation of doctors, with medical students and registrars also working with patients.

Dr Shashi Chandrasekhar, a GP at the practice, said: "Lack of space always limited the range of services we can offer, so the new clinical space is making a huge difference. It’s easier for patients to get an appointment with us. We can now carry out pre-operation appointments like blood tests, ECGs and health checks, which means older patients don’t have to rely on rural bus services to Bishop Auckland or Darlington.

“We have support from mental health practitioners for both adults and children which has helped to bring mental health care closer to our community and in line with the transformation of mental health services in the region. 

"It also means we can host more medical students, offering them hands-on experience as well as benefiting our patients."

Local resident Bernadette Hunt chairs the practice’s patient participation group. She said: "The practice team explored a lot of different ways to create a suitable space for more services, and it’s fantastic that they have been able to add the extra clinical room.

"The new space means more services for patients, including mental health support, which is particularly welcome. Knowing our team at the clinic, I know they will be doing their utmost to use the new space as efficiently as they possibly can.”

Medical secretary and admin supervisor, Tracy Straughan added: “It makes such a difference that we now have an adult and children's mental health nurse at the practice every week. At the moment, we can see patients within two weeks, when they would otherwise have been on a waiting list for referrals.

“All our patients can now get appointments more quickly, in a familiar place and without having to travel for miles on public transport.”

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