At least half of those turning up for the GP out of hours are there for minor ailments – and it’s putting serious pressure on the emergency only service.
The Southern Trust says the medics are being swamped with non-urgent complaints and this is increasing waiting times for genuine people requiring the out of hours.
Dr John Simpson, the Trust’s medical director, said: “GP out of hours is not a replacement or a substitute for visiting a GP surgery during daytime hours. It is a separate and distinct service which provides care and treatment to people with urgent medical conditions like shortness of breath, fits or seizures or severe mental health problems.
“Unfortunately, the service is very often inundated with calls about minor ailments like a blister on a heel, cold sores, common cold symptoms and other minor issues.”
Dr Simpson said he did not want to discourage people from using the service if they need it.
But he added: “The large volume of people contacting the service for non-urgent reasons is increasing waiting times because our staff are spending valuable time assessing and responding to every call received.
“We want to provide a better GP out of hours service but we can only do this with the public’s help – we need people to contact GP out of hours only if they have serious and urgent conditions.
“There are other services available like Minor Injuries and pharmacies that can help you so please think carefully before choosing the right one.”
People should always phone the GP Out of Hours first on 028 3839 9201.
For more information go to: www.nidirect.gov.uk/choosewell
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