Northern Ireland

Strabane representatives meet board over GP car move

Representatives in Strabane have met Western Health and Social Care Board officials to discuss the board's decision to relocate an out-of-hours GP car to Londonderry.

Patients needing the service will now have to wait for the car to come from Altnagelvin Hospital in Derry.

A spokesperson for the board said the decision had been made due to a lack of demand.

Sinn Fein's West Tyrone MLA Claire McGill and Council Chair Michaela Boyle met with board officials on Tuesday to highlight local concerns about the decision.

A statement from Sinn Fein issued after the meeting questioned statistics comparing Strabane and Limavady which the board used to justify its decision.

The figures showed that the car in Strabane was only in use for home visits 40% of the time while the Limavady car had a higher usage percentage and home visits ratio.

The statement said that a greater "cultural emphasis" on home visits in the Limavady area could account for the high usage there.

"There had been approximately 15,000 calls to out of hours in Strabane District compared to only around 13,000 in the Limavady District in the same year period," the statement said.

"We put it to the officials that on the basis of these figures, and on the basis of proportionality, it would have been expected that more home visits would have been undertaken in Strabane District unless levels of ill-health were greater in Limavady District-and there is no statistical evidence to substantiate this."

The Sinn Fein statement also questioned the claim by board officials that home visits to outlying rural areas by the Derry-based car would be delivered within the time specified by the health and social care quality standards framework.

During the meeting the board officials acknowledged that an equality impact assessment had not been carried out in relation to the decision, but promised that such an assessment would now be carried out.

The decision to relocate the out-of-hours car had previously been criticised by Strabane Ulster Unionist Councillor Derek Hussey.