Minister Poots Approves Framework For GP Out Of Hours Services

Health Minister Edwin Poots has approved the consultation process and Strategic Framework for GP out-of-hours (GP oohs) services in Northern Ireland.

The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) held a public consultation in 2012 on the future provision of GP out-of-hours services across Northern Ireland and listened to wide range of views from medical professionals, key stakeholders and the wider public. dn_screen

The Minister said: “This Strategic Framework is the next step in the work towards providing more effective and efficient GP out-of-hours services and is to be welcomed. The framework is consistent with the proposals in Transforming Your Care which will ultimately deliver improved access to GP oohs for everyone across Northern Ireland.”

Dr Margaret O’Brien, Head of General Medical Services at the Health and Social Care Board, said: “GP out-of-hours services provide urgent advice, care and treatment at times when GP surgeries are closed. Significant improvements have already been implemented in relation to processes, commissioning and quality standards for service delivery. The Strategic Framework complements and enhances this work and provides further opportunities to improve services.

“The framework also seeks to improve patient access through the development of a single number to access GP out-of-hours services, supporting the ultimate aim of delivering an urgent care number service for Northern Ireland.”

The number of patients using GP out-of-hours services in Northern Ireland has increased by over 18% in the last five years.The HSCB has committed to increase investment, to support the service in meeting increasing patient demand.

The BMA has welcomed the Ministerial approval of the new framework. Dr Tom Black, speaking on behalf of the BMA said: “I welcome the assurances provided by the HSCB, but would urge them to build on the successful model of the existing GP out-of-hours services, retaining the role of local clinical professionals to assess, and give advice, to patients presenting with clinical conditions. It is vitally important that we learn from the problems experienced during the implementation of a ‘111’ number in England.”

However, it remains to be be seen what services will be ultimately be delivered under the Strategic Framework… and where.