It will be much easier for people living in Swindon to book an appointment to see a GP, nurse or other health professional during the evenings and weekends this winter thanks to a new initiative to help health and care providers across the region cope with increased demand for services.

As winter begins, surgeries and practices have made it easier for people to book appointments at times ranging from 6pm to 9pm during weekdays and 8am to 12 noon on Saturdays and Sundays.

The new initiative to make it easier to see a GP or nurse is part of a range of measures being introduced across the Bath and North East Somerset, Swindon and Wiltshire Sustainability and Transformation Partnership (STP) to ensure people stay well, stay out of hospital and reduce the demand for health and care services during the winter months.

Other initiatives include encouraging eligible patients to take up the offer of a free flu jab, highlighting the importance of talking to a local pharmacist for advice before minor ailments or winter illnesses get worse and raising awareness of the NHS 111 telephone and online service, which directs patients to the most appropriate service.

Dr Ian Orpen, a GP based in Bath and chair of B&NES, Swindon and Wiltshire STP’s Clinical Board, said: “Offering people an opportunity to see a GP or nurse at a time that is convenient for them is good news and we hope it will help relieve some of the pressures faced by other hard-pressed areas of the health service, such as urgent and emergency care.

“Many people across our region find it hard to access GP appointments during normal appointment times and this initiative will be an enormous help to them.

“Winter is always a challenging time for the health service and it’s important that people in our region avoid getting unwell as far as they possibly can.

"Ultimately, we want to ensure that people who are most at risk of preventable emergency admissions to hospital over winter are aware of and, where possible, motivated to take actions to avoid that happening.”

Patients can find out more about accessing an evening or weekend appointment by speaking to the team at their GP practice.