Derry doctors urge people to self-treat this winter to help under-pressure GP practices

Local GP, Dr. Tom Black.
Local GP, Dr. Tom Black.

Derry doctor, Tom Black, has urged patients to self-treat minor illnesses this winter in order to ease pressure on local GP surgeries which are facing a staffing crisis.

Dr. Black, Chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Northern Ireland’s General Practitioners Committee, issued the call as under-pressure GPs’ patient lists rose to over 2,000 on average and the assocation circulated a letter among all local media outlets.

“Over the winter months GPs and their staff will do their best to maintain vital services for the most vulnerable patients, however it is only fair to warn you that some practices may have to cut their opening hours, stop routine services, deal with cases over the phone or send patients directly to hospital in order to manage workload,” wrote NIGPC Chair, Dr Tom Black.

“To help manage workload we would encourage patients, where possible, to deal with minor illnesses such as sore throats, coughs and colds with treatment at home. Your local pharmacy should be your first point of call for these minor issues.

“This crisis in GP services has been caused by a lack of funding, a huge increase in workload and a failure to attract young doctors into general practices. The average GP is now responsible for the care of 2,000 patients. We cannot sustain the current level of work and therefore ask for patients’ cooperation in taking these simple steps to help manage that workload.”

Derry GP Dr Paul Malloy, said they had been “left with no choice but to be honest with their patients on what lies ahead”.

“The problems in general practice have not gone away, and without a functioning devolved government they are getting worse,” said Dr Malloy.

“No funding, no new GPs coming through and the largest average patient list size we’ve ever had; we therefore owe it to our patients to be honest about what potentially lies ahead this winter and ask for their support. GPs and staff will continue to do their best to maintain vital services for those in most need.”