Candidate's plea for GP screening
An incentive scheme should be introduced to encourage GPs to screen more patients in Northern Ireland, the leader of the SDLP said.
Former community doctor Alasdair McDonnell said testing the majority for high blood pressure and other common complaints helped pick up potentially serious conditions earlier.
Dr McDonnell is standing for election in a tight race in South Belfast.
He advocated shifting more of the burden away from casualty departments and hospitals into primary care by linking relatively small payments to practitioners to how many patients were checked.
He said: "We need to make primary care work otherwise there will be queues into casualty and trolley waits."
Dr McDonnell noted an earlier incentive scheme was abandoned.
"Instead of crashing the incentive scheme what they need to do is review the costs, streamline the costs."
He said the money should be spent more efficiently and added the performance-related payments would be relatively small.
"There needs to be a much more effective strategy in the health service. Some years ago we brought in a new GP's contract and it was working very well in terms of preventative care and all the rest.
"It was working so well that they decided to pull the plug on it two or three years ago because they said it would be too expensive.
"That was a mistake and why today hospitals and casualty departments are cluttered."
He claimed if 4-5% of the workload of hospitals was shifted to primary care it would take the pressure off everybody.
"We pay a lot of lip service to primary care but never quite do what is necessary to allow primary care to work."
The Department of Health in Northern Ireland operates Transforming Your Care, a policy designed to relieve the strain on hospitals.
It is aimed at realising value for money, m aximising the use of technology and i ncentivising innovation at a local level.