RESIDENTS from across Christchurch will be able to make use of a new weekend doctors service from Saturday.

The urgent appointments scheme, which is being run in partnership by practices across the borough, will be available to approximately 54,000 people.

As reported by the Daily Echo, provisional backing for the move was given by health chiefs earlier this year. Now funding has been signed off for the initiative up until March 2019.

The service will operate from Highcliffe Medical Centre for the first time this weekend.

Dr Ravin Ramtohal, GP partner at Highcliffe Medical Centre and locality chair for Christchurch with Dorset CCG, said it is hoped the switch to a seven-day doctors service will reduce the strain on Royal Bournemouth Hospital's drop in service.

He also believes the move will help lower the burden doctors face on Mondays, when patients have often had to hold off on seeing a doctor over the weekend.

"We feel we can offer great care and support as we have access to medical records and know the patients," Dr Ramtohal said.

"It is about giving that local, personalised service to patients."

To access the new service, Christchurch patients will have to call 111 and if their condition is deemed to require a doctor's attention they will be given an appointment.

The service will run on a three-week rota, with two weekends at Highcliffe Medical Centre before the third at the Burton Surgery.

Each weekend a doctor will be joined on shift by a nurse and receptionist.

Dr Ramtohal said he was grateful for the support of Improving Access to GP Services board members Dr Mandy Platts, Emma Prince, Dr Ben Sharland and Richard Renaut, who all backed the concept.

"It is about supporting Royal Bournemouth Hospital and the great work they do, and hopefully by providing this service in Christchurch we can help the situation," Dr Ramtohal added.

"We have got the work force to deliver this and the staff are very keen on the ideas behind offering the weekend service.

"After we publicly announced the plans for the service we had a lot of patients in the surgery being very positive about it. One patient even brought in cakes she was that pleased by it."