Altnagelvin hospital's out-of-hours service 'under pressure'

Altnagelvin Hospital
Image caption The Western Trust said although services were busy it was typical of most holiday periods

Extra staff have been brought in to cope with the high number of patients using Altnagelvin hospital's out-of-hours service in Derry.

Patients said they have found it difficult to get through to the service over the bank holiday weekend and most surgeries are still closed.

Dr Tom Black from the British Medical Association said the service is at 'breaking point'.

A health trust spokesperson confirmed the service was in high demand.

Dr Black told BBC Radio Foyle: "We've got the highest workload and the lowest funding, it's a system, that has been setup to break"

"The GP out-of-hours service does an awful lot of work and that has unfortunately seen an increase, 18% over the last five years. On a day like today in Derry you would expect anywhere between three and five hundred calls which is an awful lot," Dr Black said.

"I think what we have here is a system where the workload is exceeding the capacity, the ability to provide the service, we don't have enough young GPs in Northern Ireland.

"We have to invest in health care and make it a priority otherwise we need to cut our costs by reducing demand."

The Health and Social Care Board, which speaks on behalf of the Western Urgent Care service, confirmed the service was in high demand.

"GP Out Of Hours Service in Altnagelvin is currently experiencing high demand as is to be expected on the 4th day of a bank holiday weekend. Extra staff have been brought in to deal with the situation.

"Patients are advised that Out Of Hours is for urgent issues only. For non urgent issues, GP surgeries will open as normal from tomorrow."

Meanwhile a Western Health and Social Care Trust spokesperson said: "Altnagelvin's Emergency Department has been very busy over the Easter Holiday weekend, Easter Monday and It was also very busy this morning. This is typical of most holiday periods.

"We would encourage the public to please only come to Altnagelvin's Emergency Department with serious and urgent conditions. Please consider other services available, such as GP Out of Hours and local pharmacies."

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