GPs ‘need support’ as they deal with NHS waiting lists backlog - Royal College of General Practitioners in Northern Ireland
GPs in Northern Ireland have said they need “significant support” as they are currently caring for patients caught in the backlog of spiralling waiting lists.
Northern Ireland currently has the worst hospital waiting list figures in the UK.
Statistics published last month showed more than 335,000 people are waiting for a first consultant-led appointment in the region.
More than half of those people – 189,753 – have been waiting longer than a year.
Political leaders have agreed that an Executive summit should be held in the coming weeks to deal with the crisis.
The chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in Northern Ireland, Dr Laurence Dorman, has said any action to tackle waiting lists should also include support for GPs who are caring for patients caught in the backlog.
He said: “The waiting list statistics are startling, but behind these numbers are people with lives, and livelihoods put on hold.
“When placed on a hospital waiting list for either assessment or operation, a patient and their story does not disappear. They remain under the care of their GP and this additional workload is significantly hampering access to our service for all our patients.”
Dr Dorman added: “Historically, solutions to address waiting lists have focused on additional spending going either to increasing hospital capacity or to private providers, neither of which rectify the problems in the system that resulted in these unacceptable waits.
“The best outcomes for patient health come when all parts of the system work seamlessly together, so the vital role of general practice must be considered when any new investment is proposed.
“The introduction of new systems to address patient flow through hospital is most welcome, and GPs on the ground have been supporting these. However, if unmanaged, this approach risks destabilising the workforce in our practices, with worsening access for patients in the long term.
“Transformative investment must not just focus on hospitals but consider our health service as a whole, including general practice which urgently requires assistance and investment to deliver the service our patients deserve.”
He continued: “Throughout the pandemic, general practice has continued to provide care and support to our patients as well as delivering almost half of the Covid-19 vaccines, but our service is struggling.
“We need significant investment to strengthen our workforce numbers and improve our premises if we are to be able to increase our capacity to support additional services and new ways of working to alleviate pressures.”
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