Covid-19: In light of staff shortages, doctors expect “very hard few weeks” for GPs

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Dr Alan Stout says that the Christmas out-of hours telephone service was extremely busy.

Northern Ireland’s General Practitioner Services are experiencing “very difficult weeks” because of staff shortages caused by Covid-19. This is according to the British Medical Association chair.

Dr Alan Stout claimed that services outside of normal hours were often under stress when offices close for Christmas.

The patients received many calls, and there were call-back issues.

He said that many practices were reopened Wednesday and are “now also extremely busy”, as doctors answer calls.

We hope that the services will be reopened to alleviate pressure, and help reduce callback times.

BBC News NI was informed by the Department of Health that GPs are performing more than 210,000 consults per week. Approximately 45% of those consultations take place face-to-face.

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The department made up to £5.5m available to support GP services in Northern Ireland over winter.

It allocated £3.8m to support additional patient care during this time and up to £1.7m to further improve telephone and computer technology.

Dr Stout stated that additional pressure will result from the “increasing Spread of Covid” and the necessity for staff being either ill or isolated.

He said, “We also notice the effects of long waits for services.”

“The coming weeks will be extremely difficult both in general and hospital practice.”

Laurence Dorman of Royal College of GPs stated that all Northern Ireland’s healthcare services are very busy, regardless of when they may be available.

It was due to “huge demand” and continuing pressures in relation to Covid-19 delivery and Covid-19.

He said, “We urge the public not to rush the urgent medical need and we would encourage them to be patient with their GP colleagues.”

‘GP practices remain open’

According to a spokesperson for the Department of Health, “GPs will still be open for face-toface consultations and offer other options for patients when necessary”.

“General Practice has been a key player in the fight against the Covid-19 pandemic. This includes the delivery of the vaccine programme, and work in setting up primary Care Covid-19 centers. These efforts helped to protect our social and health care systems from becoming overwhelmed.”

The department hosts regular meetings with the major stakeholder and professional organizations, such as the British Medical Association (BMA), and Royal College of GPs.

“Both organizations participated in recent stakeholder engagement meetings that included the Health Minister, Royal Colleges, trades unites, HSC trusts, and the HSC Board.

The discussion centered on the current health system pressures and how to increase resilience during winter.


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