Out-of-hours services ‘broken’ as single GP regularly covers 370,000 patients

Out-of-hours services in Northern Ireland are on the verge of collapse, with individual GPs regularly having to cover populations of 370,000 overnight on their own, GPs have warned.

Those in the South and West are being hit the hardest and are almost at the point of having to close completely, RCGP NI said.

Dr Frances O’Hagan, who is chair of Southern LMC and works for the out-of-hours service, described the service in the South as ‘broken’.

She said one GP was left to cover a population of 406,000 patients – although the health board claimed the figure was 369,000 – spread over a large geographical area, rather than the three required on 12 overnight shifts in August.

 ‘We have been limping along but I would say it is now broken in the South.

‘There is a problem with chronic understaffing but it has come to a real head in the past few weeks.’

Having only one doctor on call used to be rare but is becoming the norm, she added.

A long-standing shortage of GPs plus high costs of indemnity are behind the problem to which the Government needs to find an urgent solution, she said.


Full story in Pulse, 8 September 2016