Patients wait almost 34 hours to see doctor over peak Christmas period.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

THIS CHRISTMAS period saw an increase in the amount of people requiring the GP out-ofhours' service within the Southern Trust.

Christmas Eve and Boxing Night seemed to be the busiest nights, with patients waiting up to 34 hours to see a doctor out-of-hours and the number of calls received on Boxing Night were 'significantly higher' than last year according to the Trust.

Patients were advised that the most ill would be seen first.

The Trust tackled the situation by sending out a text message on Boxing Day asking any clinicians who had the capacity to work to make contact.

This text resulted in more doctors coming forward and the waiting times coming down.

A spokesperson for the trust said that with the extended closure of GP surgeries at this time of year, the GP out-of-hours (GP OOH) was very busy, as to be expected.

"A request was issued to GPs and staff to request extra cover for the service to meet the additional demand. The response to the request saw 10 GPs and one Nurse Practitioner offering their help while four GPs worked beyond their shift endtime.

"The GP OOH service is for people with serious and urgent medical conditions that can't wait until GP surgeries re-open. People with less serious conditions were waiting a significantly longer time and were being advised to go to GP surgeries when they re-opened.

"Despite the extra pressures and a significant increase in the number of calls compared to the same period last year, urgent calls were still being triaged within 20 minutes thanks to our hard-working and loyal out-of-hours staff."

SDLP Councillor Michael Carr said it was "alarming" that patients needing to see a doctor out-of-hours had to wait up to 34 hours.

He said while the Trust faced many complex issues in trying to meet the strict targets local services are expected to achieve, "unfortunately, they fall way short of meeting them".

"I commend all the hard-working doctors, nurses, paramedics, ambulance drivers and staff that have gone 'above and beyond the call of duty' to help deal with the unprecedented numbers of patients they have had to deal with over the past few days," he said.

"The system itself is in need of emergency treatment, and the biggest injection of support to help right now would be to have a Health Minister and government support at Stormont.

"The prevarication of politicians must not be allowed to put the lives of our young and old in jeopardy."

Independent Councillor Henry Reilly said he was "very grateful" to the Trust staff who work over the traditional family period.

"I believe the increased demand came from some form of flu which appeared to affect a lot of people over the Christmas period.

"However, more flexibility within management could mitigate these peaks in the future. Again, I am extremely grateful to the NHS staff who performed brilliantly," he said.

ABC Councillor Elizabeth Ingram said: "It is a busy time of the year and this year there has been a lot of illness.

"However, it is unfortunate that people still had to wait as long as they did. I believe that the doctors who came in eased the pressures immensely."

The Public Health Agency and Health and Social Care Trust are working together to encourage people to take actions and make choices that will help them 'Stay Well this Winter'.

A helpful guide to help you make the right choices for your health and healthcare when you need it is available online.

For more information on 'Staying Well' this winter go to:


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