Low number of docs at Strabane base means patients have to go to Derry

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Low numbers of doctors booking shifts at the Strabane GP-out-of-hours base means patients have to travel to Derry or Omagh during weekdays to be seen.

Patients requiring home visits in the Strabane area are often also reliant on GPs travelling from Derry to be seen.

That’s according to the Health Minister Robin Swann who was asked by Sinn Féin MLA Maolíosa McHugh what plans he had put in place to assist Western Urgent Care in reintroducing weekday evening out of hours shifts at its Strabane base.

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“Strabane GP OOHs base is currently open between 8am and 4pm on weekends and bank holidays with one Clinician, a GP or an Advanced Nurse Practitioner (ANP), working in the Strabane base at a time.

Low numbers of doctors booking shifts at the Strabane GP-out-of-hours base means patients have to travel to Derry or Omagh during weekdays to be seen.Low numbers of doctors booking shifts at the Strabane GP-out-of-hours base means patients have to travel to Derry or Omagh during weekdays to be seen.
Low numbers of doctors booking shifts at the Strabane GP-out-of-hours base means patients have to travel to Derry or Omagh during weekdays to be seen.

“WUC have advised this is in response to low numbers of clinicians booking shifts in the Strabane base and has been necessary in order to efficiently utilise the available resources. Any Patients who require a face to face appointment on weekdays are given the option of attending another base, either Derry or Omagh,” the Health Minister stated.

Mr. Swann said that when requests for home visits are made and no GPs are available in the Strabane base, a GP from another base will make the visit to wherever the patient is located.

“If at weekends or on Public holidays, there is no GP in the Strabane base, and a patient needs to be seen by a GP they are given the option of attending another base or waiting to be seen at their local base.

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"When a GP from another base (Derry or Omagh) travels to Strabane, they will undertake a number of patient appointments. Once these patients have been seen the GP will return to their own base or undertake any further home visits which are required," said the minister.

He again referred to the low number of doctors booking shifts for the Strabane centre.

"There is consistently low availability of GP’s who choose to work in OOHs at the Strabane base, therefore this arrangement allows WUC to meet patient needs and make effective use of the available clinical resource,” he stated.

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The Western area, the minister told Mr. McHugh, was an ‘outlier’ in terms of per capita OOH bases.

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“The Department of Health does not specify the location of bases for GP out of hours service provision, however across the five GP out of hours services WUC is an outlier in terms of the number of bases per one hundred thousand of the population and will need to take activity levels and capacity challenges into account to ensure the efficient use of its resources,” he stated.

Mr. Swann told Mr. McHugh that additional financial support was provided to WUC in 2022/23 and 2023/24 and that to address the identified costs pressures in 2024/25 additional funding had also been approved.

"The GP OOHs service is for people who need urgent medical treatment but cannot wait until their doctor's practice reopens.

"The local population is encouraged to utilise the service appropriately to meet any urgent health care needs which cannot wait to be seen by their registered practice when it reopens,” he stated.

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