THE lack of cover for Strabane’s Out of Hours service is partly due to a reluctance on the part of some GPs to undertake the work.
Speaking to the Chronicle in the wake of a meeting with a representative from Western Urgent Care (WUC), local independent councillor Raymond Barr said currently, there is “nowhere near enough” GP cover for the whole area.
Cllr Barr said he also sought assurance that that the service would not be discontinued but rather, enhanced.
“Discussed was the lack of cover for Out of Hours in Strabane and once again it came down to a lack of resources, mainly GPs being unavailable for a number of reasons – including stress – costs of insurance and the reluctance of some GPs to work out of hours,” Cllr Barr explained.
He continued, “They stated that in an attempt to improve the service they were sponsoring nurses to do courses which would give them higher qualifications, that they had appointed another pharmacist and an advanced paramedic practitioner to supplement the GPs available – some of these additional staff would be qualified to prescribe. They also were trying to incentivise the shifts by offering more attractive rates.
“When I asked were there any plans to, as some people fear, discontinue the Out of Hours service in Strabane, they informed me that as of now they weren’t aware of any such plans and their contract was still in place to provide the Out of Hours service for the Strabane area.
“I would stress that any such plans to discontinue the service would be greatly resisted, I feel the service needs to be enhanced” he added.
Following the meeting a spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board, which commissions Western Urgent Care to provide the Out of Hours service, said, “Over the past few years WUC has developed its workforce to include these roles in order to ensure that the needs of patients can be met.
“This means that the GPs and Nurse Practitioners will be available to see clinically urgent patients face-to-face.
“In the event that WUC remains unable to book GPs or nurse practitioners to work at a particular Out of Hours base, and several patients need to be seen in that area, WUC will arrange for one from another base to attend and undertake blocked bookings for a period.
“There are currently no plans to discontinue the GP Out of Hours service within Strabane or any other bases. WUC still retains a contract to provide the service from five locations in Derry, Strabane, Omagh, Enniskillen and Limavady.”