MEDICAL surgeries in Christchurch could soon open for urgent appointments seven-days-a week.

The Stour Surgery, Highcliffe Medical Centre and recently-merged Christchurch Medical Centre have already received provisional backing from health chiefs for the move, which will see them operate on a rota basis, taking on each others patients at weekends.

Dr Ravin Ramtohal, from the Highcliffe Medical Centre, said: “We are staffing it with our own GPs, no locums, and our own nurses - everyone is keen. It will be a local service for local patients.

“Patients who contact 111 at the weekend will be directed to the practices.”

Highcliffe and Stour surgeries are also planning to open - taking each others patients - during both May bank holidays, a repeat of last year.

As well as making the practices more accessible for patients, weekend and bank holiday opening will help take pressure off the Royal Bournemouth Hospital’s A&E department.

During last year’s May bank holiday openings, staff at Highcliffe and Stour surgeries had 161 clinical contacts.

Dr Ramtohal said: “We want to move this on now for the whole 54,000 residents of Christchurch, so they can access health servies if they are ill over the weekends.

“We have put a bid in to open seven-days-a-week, 9am-6pm.

“We put a bid in at April’s board meeting, which was provisionally approved, subject to rubber-stamping in May.

“We have spoken to patient participation groups. All of the locality has agreed they will rotate between the three practices - Purewell Christchurch Medical Centre), Stour and Highcliffe, and staff it at weekends.We’ve always wanted to do it, we put a bid in years ago to open seven days but it was rejected because of costs.”

The surgeries are able to bankroll the move now after putting in a bid for additional funding, made available through former Prime Minister David Cameron’s seven-day GP pledge.

Last summer the Barn Surgery announced plans to join with the merger of Burton and Bransgore Medical centres and the Orchard Surgery, to form the Christchurch Medical Centre. This centre came into being later that year.

At that time Orchard Surgery business manager Claire Richards said: “Working as a larger, more flexible practice can help safeguard the merged practice a little more.

A final decision on the weekend opening proposals should be made next month.