MORE GP appointments will be available to patients after concerns had been raised that the sick were struggling to get seen.

It will mean more evening and weekend appointments for patients in East Lancashire.

The GP extended access scheme will see patients able to make an appointment between 6.30pm to 8.30pm at night in the week days and from 10am to 4pm on a Saturday and Sunday.

These appointments are in addition to the usual GP surgery opening hours from 8am to 6pm.

The scheme was launched in Hyndburn in January this year and will now be available for people in Burnley, Pendle, Ribblesdale and Rossendale.

It comes after a report by Healthwatch Blackburn with Darwen found that patients were queuing at 7am to get a doctor’s appointment’ at Shifa Surgery in Blackburn.

While figures from the BBC's shared data unit revealed that 84,588 patients in East Lancashire have no access to pre-bookable appointments outside of working hours.

There had also been strong opposition to the closure of Accrington Victoria Hospital's GP centre which shut its doors for the last time in June this year.

Dr Richard Robinson, chairman of East Lancashire CCG, said: “The system is run by local GPs and nurses and is very simple and easy to use.

"It is up and running in Hyndburn where I work as a GP and is working well.

"It has just been launched in Burnley and Pendle and will be launched later in Rossendale and Ribblesdale.

“To book an appointment for a weekday evening or on Saturday 10 am to 4pm or Sunday 10 am to 4 pm, patients simply need to ring their own GP practice and ask for an appointment.

"The system means that patients can be booked into the evening and weekend appointments if they cannot be seen during normal surgery hours.

“It is early days for this new system but already we are receiving good feedback and we hope that it will meet the needs of the majority of people who need improved access to GP services.

"It builds on a tried and tested model that we developed in Hyndburn earlier this year and it will be a new and welcome addition to NHS services throughout the area.”

The scheme means that patients can make an appointment by telephone or face-to-face-with their GP practice to see a GP or practice nurse.

It is hoped that all people in East Lancashire will have access to extended GP services by the beginning of October.