Local people have been urged to examine potentially more suitable alternatives to GP Out-Of-Hours following a rise in the number of people using the service over the winter.
The Health and Social Care Board said that there were around 3,000 more calls to the GP Out of Hours during the holiday period this year in the north.
In light of this, the board has reminded people to consider their options before ringing the service.
A HSCB spokesperson said the GP Out of Hours service is a ring back service for those with serious and urgent conditions that cannot wait until their own GP surgery reopens.
Those patients with less urgent (routine) conditions may have to wait longer for a call back during busy periods as staff will prioritise the most urgent and serious patients.
Director of Integrated Care at the HSCB Dr Sloan Harper said: “This is an important urgent care service but it’s not an alternative to the normal everyday GP service.
“So it’s not intended to be used for repeat prescriptions, minor ailments such as bumps, bruises and sprains, minor cuts or colds, etc. – or if people are too busy to get to the doctor’s during the day.”
Dr Harper added: “With increased pressure on the GP Out of Hours Service we would urge patients to choose well and consider whether they are able to manage their problems through self-care, or by visiting their local Pharmacy, or contacting their usual GP the next day if more appropriate.”
From December 23, 2017 to January 1 2018, the five GP Out of Hours services received 30,360 calls. This represents a 10% increase on the same period last year.
Of the 30,360 calls, 5,711 (19%) were classed as urgent and 24,649 (81%) as non-urgent.
During this period, there was an increase in the number of Out of Hours consultations for flu or flu-like symptoms and respiratory illnesses.