An extra £196,000 has been provided to Western Urgent Care to provide extra clinical capacity at its Altnagelvin out-of-hours base as part of the Department of Health’s efforts to address pressures facing the GP service.
Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said: “In 2016/17, in addition to core funding of almost £4.8 million for its out of hours services, funding of £196,000 will be available for Western Urgent Care to provide extra clinical capacity where it is needed most and additional bank holiday clinical capacity.
“£30,000 will be available to provide training for staff working in the service.
“Up to £284,000 is available to fund a Localised Additional Costs Scheme to support and incentivise GPs to work additional hours, fill shifts and cover additional costs such as medical indemnity, and £46,000 is available to help build the skills mix of professionals working in the out of hours service.”
Ms O’Neill provided details of the additional expenditure this year in response to an Assembly Question from DUP MLA George Robinson.
She advised that an enhanced service, where doctors provide extra clinical time, for two-and-a-half hours on week day evenings would also be continuing at Altnagelvin.
“I can also advise that funding of £100,000 for a Local Enhanced Service will continue in the Western Trust area in 2016/17,” she said.
“Under this arrangement GP principals provide additional clinical time (via booked appointments) for a two and a half hour period for five evenings during the week.
“This service has been put in place in the Altnagelvin base as Western Urgent Care have identified this base as having the highest demand in the Western area,” she added.
She praised staff operating the Derry out-of-hours service for meeting demand in highly pressurised circumstances.
“Despite the pressures facing the out of hours service within the Trust area, in 2015, 92 per cent of urgent calls to Western Urgent Care were triaged within 20 minutes, and 81 per cent of routine calls were triaged within one hour.
“My Department and the Health and Social Care Board continue to work closely with out of hours providers across the North to address the challenges facing the service.
“The report of the Departmental-led working group set up to review the pressures facing GP-services also incorporated recommendations from a review of GP out of hours services. I am carefully considering the findings of that review and am committed to ensuring that everyone in the North has access to high quality, sustainable GP services both in hours and out of hours,” she said.