In a bid to help meet the growing demand for primary care access outside of normal working hours, Sainsbury’s looks set to become the first supermarket chain to house a GP clinic alongside its more traditional product offerings.

From March, Sainsbury’s in Heaton Park will become the UK’s first supermarket to offer appointments with local GPs in the evenings and weekends in-store, as one of three pilot schemes commissioned by Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale Primary Care Trust to expand out-of-hours care.

The new service, called Doctors in Store, was initially founded in 2007 by Dr Mohammed Jiva, a GP in Middleton, to “allow local residents to undertake a number of activities under one roof from shopping to undertaking a GP consultation to dispensing any prescriptions.”

Doctors will have full secure access to patient medical details and be able to make referrals or update records, and the surgery will be located in a fully equipped consultation room at Sainsbury’s next to the pharmacy. The success of the scheme will be assessed by the University of Cumbria over a six-month period, after which it may be expanded to other stores across the region.

HMRPCT has ear-marked £126,000 to run the three out-of-hours pilots, and is also working with Bury and Rochdale Doctors On Call on a second initiative to provide an extended hours service to people in the Rochdale area, as well as a third pilot designed to help the PCT commission new primary care services for the future.

“The Doctors In Store pilot is very innovative and it is fantastic that we have the backing of such a reputable organisation as Sainsbury’s,” commented John Pierce, chairman of HMRPCT. “The BARDOC and Locally Enhanced Service pilots will also be up and running at the same time to ensure that all residents across the Borough have access to extended GP hours,” he added.

Closer into the community
The move falls in line with the government’s recent drive to push drive primary care services even closer into the community and improve capacity and service delivery, and it is hoped that the expansion of out-of-hours care will also help reduce the burden on overstretched A&E services.

Commenting on the move, Dr Laurence Buckman, Chairman of the British Medical Association’s GP committee, said: “The BMA supports the principle of making healthcare more accessible to patients. The Manchester extended hours pilot is an example of GPs offering new services to their patients. It will be interesting to see how patients respond to this new pilot and what lessons can be learned.”