AQW 26322/17-22 – GP Out of Hours services

Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Health what measures will be taken to ensure that Dalriada Urgent Care out of hours service has sufficient resources to meet demand.

Minister of Health: GP Out of Hours (OOHs) services across Northern Ireland continue to face pressures, with demand increasing and difficulties filling GP shifts.

Dalriada Urgent Care, in common with all the OOHs providers in Northern Ireland, continues to introduce service improvements, including adjusting the skill mix of clinicians, increasing levels of nurse triage provision, employing more nurse practitioners, paramedics and pharmacists and increasing flexibility in shift times. OOHs providers also have the flexibility to enhance the rates of pay in order to secure GP cover.

My Department is continuing to work closely with the Health and Social Care Board, the OOHs providers and key stakeholders to address the current challenges in OOHs services across Northern Ireland and to redesign OOHs services aligned with No More Silos. The aim is to have a more stable, sustainable and integrated service that will better meet the needs of the population. This includes consideration of a regional model for delivery of the service.

My Department has now also made funding available to support General Practice in Northern Ireland over the winter period, including £800,000 to support the GP OOHs Service. This investment will support enhanced OOH provision, including increased staffing levels during busy times over the winter months including the medical, nursing, pharmacist, driver and business support workforce, expanding nurse triage teams and employing additional call handlers during busy periods.