A doctor has issued a stark warning that patients could die if out-of-hours GP services in the North West are reduced this summer.
The new arrangements are being introduced by Western Urgent Care GP Out of Hours Services, which operates services in Londonderry, Omagh, Strabane, Enniskillen and Limavady.
Under the arrangements, from midnight until 8.30am people in Limavady and Strabane would be covered by doctors in Derry.
But Dr Joe Devlin has gone on record saying that he has no doubt the cuts would mean someone will lose their life.
Speaking to the Telegraph, Dr Devlin said: “Two months ago the minister promised there would be no cuts to front-line service, but come July 1 the number of doctors on the Roe Doc scheme will fall from five to three.
“What this means, and of this I have no doubt, is patients will die. I have no qualms about saying that.
“I know of at least 10 instances when I was on duty over this past year or so that if I had not reached the patients concerned as fast as I did they would have died.
“Certainly, in those cases, if the patients had to wait on a doctor to come from Derry they would not have survived.”
The trust said: “Under the revised arrangements, GPs and nursing staff will continue to be available at all times when the demand for their services is highest. At less busy times, GPs will provide cover as required from the five Out of Hours Centres.”
Doctor Devlin blasted this saying that this is usually when the most urgent calls are made.
He added: “Generally speaking, after 12am I would deal with more complex or emergency cases.
“It is my experience that the majority of calls at this time are for elderly people in nursing homes, terminally ill patients, those who have medical emergencies like stroke or heart attack, and sick children.
“Withdrawal of the service after 12am will hurt hardest the most vulnerable members of the community.”
He continued: “The people who are pushing this through are administrative and clerical staff with no understanding of what they are doing, and people need to speak up.”
Limavady DUP MLA George Robinson is set to launch a petition against the move that will be available in local GP surgeries.