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GP warns on health visitors shake-up

Frontline health services will be damaged and children put at risk by taking health visitors out of GP surgeries, a Northern Ireland doctor has warned.

The Public Health Agency (PHA) is reviewing the role of health visitors and school nurses in Northern Ireland and family doctors are concerned they will no longer be attached to GP practices.

Among the recommendations it is considering is a review of the way pre-school immunisation programmes are implemented.

Dr Tom Black, deputy chair of the British Medical Association’s Northern Ireland General Practitioners’ Committee, said doctors and community nurses were becoming increasingly concerned about possible changes to the service.

Dr Black said such a move would erode the continuity of care that currently exists and would lead to reduced communication between doctors and health visitors regarding their patients.

The Londonderry GP said he believed this could create the possibility of health professionals missing vital signs a child is at risk which would in turn increase the chances of the Baby P tragedy occurring in Northern Ireland.

The BMA is writing to Mary Hinds, director of nursing at the PHA, to express its concerns.

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Ms Hinds said: “We are not planning to remove health visitors from GP practices and indeed look forward to working closely with GPs in taking forward the recommendations of the Review of Health Visiting and School Nursing.”

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