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‘Fundamental rethink’ call on GP out-of-hours with bases in Armagh, Newry and South Armagh

Southern Trust asked to use extra cash to transform system and ease pressures

A fundamental rethink of the out-of-hours GP service across the Southern Area has been called for – with local bases in Armagh, Newry and south Armagh.

And a minor injury service must also be central to such provision.

Those are points which have already been raised with the chief executive of the Southern Trust in the hope of seeing progressed.

It comes in response to confirmation this week of extra money from the Department of Health aimed at transforming the health service locally.

This has led to suggestions that the GP out-of-hours system needs updated and reconfigured to prove efficient and effectual.

Newry and Armagh SDLP MLA Justin McNulty hopes to push for changes to the way it operates off the back of the monetary injection.

He said: “Out-of-hours services – be that GP services, minor injuries or indeed the Accident and Emergency services – are a fundamental part of the health service.

“But they need to be expanded and supported to meet the needs of our society today.

“We tend to look at each part of the health service locally as different entities, however there must be a fundamental rethink of the way services are configured and a complete new approach taken to primary care, including the out-of-hours’ services.

“How often do we hear that our Emergency Departments are packed to capacity and there is a plea issued to only turn up if necessary, and yet at the same time we hear of people turning up to the wrong service for the wrong ailment.

“If the service was reconfigured and people were directed to a properly resourced out-of-hours service, then this would not only ease pressure on a struggling system, but would also direct people to the appropriate service in a cost effective manner.”

Mr McNulty said he has previously raised concerns about long waiting times in the out-of-hours service and the time it takes for a GP to call a patient back.

But he insists: “If this service was boosted, extended and resourced, to include an out-of-hours mental health service, an out-of-hours pharmacy service, as well as an out-of-hours GP service, it could be transformative.

“Included in this newly reconstructed service there would have to be local bases in Newry, Armagh and South Armagh, and a minor injury service must also be central to the provision.

“This would ease pressures on our stretched Emergency Departments and cut down on the number of people attending the wrong services.

“This is a conversation we must be up for and we must acknowledge that additional resources, including staffing and finance would be required to make it happen.

“I have already spoken to the chief executive of the Southern Trust on this issue and it is something I want to see progressed in the near future.”

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