Belfast Telegraph

Health Trust forced to bring in extra GPs on Boxing Day

By Allan Preston

The Southern Health Trust was forced to bring in extra GPs on Tuesday as waitings times rose as high as 34 hours.

A spokesman for the Trust said an urgent appeal was issued on Boxing Day for extra clinicians to ease the pressure.

By 6pm he said the waiting time to receive a call from an out of hours GP had been reduced to around six hours.

He added seriously ill patients had been prioritised at all times and only those with more minor ailments had faced the long wait.

Dr Tom Black is chair of the BMA's Northern Ireland GP committee.

He said having to call in extra GPs would have a "domino effect" on other vital services.

"We've been very clear that the Southern and Western Trust out of hours GP services have been under pressure for more than a year now."

"That's because there are too few GPs in Northern Ireland and we've reported both services to the General Medical Council and both are under investigation from the (regulatory body) RQIA."

Dr Black said with most GPs obliged to keep daytime practices up and running, the out of hours service suffered.

Although employed as a part-time GP himself, Dr Black said he had been working full time in recent weeks.

"That's because we can't get locums. We're asking all the GPs to work harder and harder, because of that there are fewer of them available."

Regarding the 34 wait in the Southern Trust, he added: "I think we're failing to provide the basic services that patients need."

"I think we have a situation in Northern Ireland where there are 2,000 patients per GP. If you compare that to the 1950s it was 1,400 patients to every GP."

"This is despite the fact that patients are sicker and on far more medication. We're dealing with much more serious cases in the community now."

He said parachuting in extra GPs added pressure to other services.

"This means Emergency departments will have to take on a far greater workload. It's probably not well known in Northern Ireland but GP out of hours services see three times more patients than all the A+E departments combined."

"So when out of hours struggle, people struggle."

Belfast Telegraph Digital

Daily News Headlines Newsletter

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox.


From Belfast Telegraph