Patients hit out at 'miracle' AskmyGP scheme to cut doctor workloads
A scheme aimed at making it easier to see a GP and cutting the workload of overstretched doctors has come under fire.
The AskmyGP scheme is being introduced at GP surgeries around Northern Ireland - but concerns have been raised about patient safety after it was implemented at a practice in Portadown.
Dr Philip Lusty, a GP at the Co Armagh town's Riverside Group Practice, has said he has witnessed a "miracle" following the introduction of the AskmyGP scheme and that "everyone" is happy with the new service.
Under the AskmyGP scheme, patients contact their surgery on the day they require an appointment.
Within an hour they should receive a call back from a GP, who will discuss the medical complaint with the patient and assess how best to treat them.
In many cases they may be able to deal with the problem over the phone, resulting in a reduction in unnecessary GP appointments and the rate of patients who fail to turn up for one.
Dr Lusty has written a glowing account of the new scheme, which was published on Facebook. He said it has reduced angry confrontations between patients and reception staff when there are no appointments available for three weeks, while GPs are now able to take toilet and lunch breaks.
But in response, some critics have complained of lengthy waits for callbacks from doctors and said they are entitled to see a GP if they feel an appointment is necessary.
Others said they did not want to discuss personal medical problems with reception staff who they said are not medically trained or qualified to triage patients.
However, one of Northern Ireland's top doctors has spoken out in defence of the AskmyGP scheme.
Dr Tom Black, chair of the British Medical Association's Northern Ireland GP committee, said: "We introduced AskmyGP nine months ago at the practice where I work and there were complaints during the first two weeks while everyone got used to it, but now all the patients love it."
Dr Black said no patient should have to discuss confidential medical information with receptionists and the average time for callbacks at the practice where he works is now 18 minutes.