New covid-style centre to deal with Strep A cases set up in Northern Ireland

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A new specialist covid-style assessment centre set up in the Northern Trust area to deal with an expected surge in Strep A cases this weekend could be replicated elsewhere, a leading doctor has suggested.

GP surgeries and hospital Emergency Departments have been swamped by patients concerned about the spread of the infectious bacteria in recent days, following the death of over a dozen children across the UK.

The Department of Health confirmed, in a statement to the News Letter on Friday, that a new specialist centre had been established to deal with the extra pressure being placed on the health service.

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A spokesperson said: "Due to the large numbers of children presenting with symptomatic illness requiring further assessment, Dalriada Urgent Care GP Out of Hours have set up a Paediatric Assessment Centre similar to the system that they operated successfully during the covid pandemic.

Over half of all GP contacts are Strep A related, a leading doctor has said.Over half of all GP contacts are Strep A related, a leading doctor has said.
Over half of all GP contacts are Strep A related, a leading doctor has said.

"This is in an attempt to manage the anticipated surge in cases this weekend and to make the most efficient use of available resources with the aim of ensuring patient safety and reducing pressure on local Emergency Departments."

Speaking to the News Letter, the chair of the British Medical Association's GP committee in Northern Ireland Dr Alan Stout said: "The pressures at Emergency Departments are being replicated and magnified in General Practice.

“It’s huge, well over 50% of our contacts at the moment – and more than that in some practices. The Trust, in the Sick Children’s Hospital, were reporting over 200 contacts. In an average practice we would get that in a single day, in a single practice, in terms of the total number of contacts.

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“At the moment, 50% of those are Strep A related – they’re not all Strep A because we’re seeing lots and lots of different viral infections as well. It’s concerned parents, understandably concerned parents keen to see their child assessed.”

He continued: “In England, they are diverting an awful lot of patients to their 111 system but that’s not absolutely ideal. We’re hearing some not so great stories from England as well.

“Interestingly, Dalriada in the Northern Trust has announced they are going to set up a separate unit – a bit like the old covid centres – specifically to deal with children temperatures and suspected Strep A.

Dalriada is effectively the out-of-hours service in the Northern area. They were working very closely with the Trust there. They are setting up a unit there to see sick children, essentially.”

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Asked if he would encourage other areas to follow suit and set up similar centres to deal with suspected Strep A cases elsewhere in Northern Ireland, Dr Stout said: We have seen it with the covid centres which were very successful, so we have that model there. There’s no question that in the short-term it would take a lot of pressure off practices, and would take a lot of pressure off the EDs as well. We will certainly see the way the Dalriada model works and I think others will definitely be looking to follow-suit.”