A cash injection of £550k has been pumped into the local out-of-hours GP service to cope with unprecedented demand over the past few months.
As well as the pressures on Craigavon’s A&E Department, there has been an 18% increase in demand for out-of-hours doctors over the past five years, according to a Department of Health update on winter pressures in the Southern Trust area, which includes the Dungannon District.
The extra funding comes in the wake of harrowing patient accounts of being sent to other A&E departments after attending Craigavon’s facility.
The money was spent on additional shifts and enhanced payments to local GPs for difficult to fill shifts particularly at weekends and bank holidays.
It also provided funding for recruitment of additional acute physicians to implement a new model for acute medicine in Craigavon Area Hospital.
Health Minister Jim Wells outlined the steps the Southern Trust was taking to ease the pressures.
“I understand the Southern Trust has an on-going recruitment process for both sessional and contracted GPs and is exploring the potential to recruit suitably qualified GPs from overseas.
“It has also undertaken a nurse recruitment process with 30 triage nurses and 5 advance nurse practitioners appointed to date. The advance nurse practitioners are already in post and are in process of training the 30 nurses who are gradually commencing work.
“These nurses will provide triage and resolution of calls by telephone and face to face consultations at out-of-hours bases.
“During March the Trust will be piloting a scheme which will offer a contribution to sessional GPs to help with indemnity insurance in return for a minimum commitment of 20 clinical hours per month.
The Trust is also currently seeking IT solutions to facilitate GPs in triaging calls at home and is exploring the use of remote telehealth for home consultations by a paramedic/nurse.”