West Tyrone Sinn Féin -- Building an Ireland of Equals

Boyle welcomes progress in addressing Strabane Out of Hours problems

Published: 11 June, 2015

West Tyrone Sinn Féin MLA Michaela Boyle has welcomed the allocation of additional resources to address long-standing problems with the provision of Out of Hours which have been particularly acute in Strabane.

Speaking after questioning the Health Minister on the issue Ms Boyle said,

"In recent years I have been contacted time and time again by families who were unable to access the Out of Hours Service at Strabane Health Centre who instead were signposted to Altnagelvin or Omagh, but at the same time were being told that the service in Strabane was in place for all who needed it.

"It was obvious that the Out of Hours, as initially promised, was not available due to staffing and resource shortages. Having met with and lobbied the Health Authorities on this issue over a prolonged period, I now welcome that steps are being taken, as outlined in the Ministers response to me, in an effort to plug the gaps in the Service that were all too apparent.

"Albeit long overdue, I very much welcome the additional resources and measures that are now being put in place and hopefully local people who need to access the OOH Service will begin to see a major improvement in its operation." ENDS

Note to Editor

These remedial measures include:

An additional £3.1m being invested in OOH in 2015-16.

Within the Western area specifically, additional clinical time (via booked appointments) for a 2½ hour period for 5 evenings during the week. This service has been put in place in the Altnagelvin base which has the highest demand in the Western area. It is hoped that supporting GPs in the Altnagelvin base helps minimise the number of times that GPs in the other 4 centres in the Western area have to move from their respective centres. This also allows a GP from the Altnagelvin base to travel to Strabane to see patients by appointment if the Strabane shift is unfilled.

Western Urgent Care (WUC) has been allocated funding to engage a Procedure Nurse to carry out procedures such as ECGs, Nebulising etc.

Other initiatives that are also being undertaken to support OOHs centres in the Western area include:

· an advertisement has been placed in UK wide magazine offering GPs shifts in all OOHs centres in Western area;

· a series of communications to GP practices in the Western area seeking their support for the local OOHs centre.

· locum agencies in the UK and Republic of Ireland have been contacted;

· all OOHs providers receiving additional funding to uplift staffing capacity during public holidays and WUC has increased the pool of nursing staff to work in Out of Hours.

GPs are also charged increased indemnity costs if they take on OOHs work and this can be a disincentive for taking on the work. The Minister has informed me that the HSCB are currently considering how to financially incentivise individuals to take up multiple shifts, as a way of helping to address these indemnity costs.