The Patient Council ask for GPs to extend opening hours
The Patient and Client Council after surveying more than 8,200 people in NI, has made a series of recommendations.
It said GPs should extend opening hours in the evening and at weekends, according to reports by the BBC.
Chief Executive Maeve Hully also expressed her concern that there are “strong arguments for concern about people’s experiences in the process of accessing care”.
She added that while “most people could access their GP within a reasonably acceptable time,” availability of appointments could be improved.
She said: “Those who experience difficulty may delay seeking and obtaining treatment, underuse preventive healthcare services and be at greater risk for the complications of delayed diagnoses.
“These potential consequences, in turn, may put increased financial pressure on the health and social care system if individuals arrive in the system sicker and stay in it longer.”
A Department of Health spokesman said that Health Minister Edwin Poots:
“Fully appreciates the commitment and contribution of General Practice in the delivery of healthcare here in Northern Ireland and recognises that GPs are a key component of the vision in Transforming Your Care”.
He further added that:
“The issue of the overall funding allocation for GPs is clearly important but it must be considered both in the context of the current challenging financial climate and also the other elements of the General Medical Services Contract.”
The following recommendations were also made in the report on access to GP services in Northern Ireland:
General practices should develop better opportunities for patients to provide their views on accessing services;
New technologies should be used to help patients book and manage appointments;
Practices should provide dedicated times to call and make appointments outside of traditional working hours;
Premium-rate phone lines for contacting practices should be removed;
GPs and front-line staff in practices should receive disability equality training.
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