Trust in plea to GPs on winter pressures

Western Health and Social Care Trust Headquarters at Altnagelvin Hospital. DER4414MC074
Western Health and Social Care Trust Headquarters at Altnagelvin Hospital. DER4414MC074

GPs in the Western Trust area have been urged to consider alternatives for patients before sending them to Altnagelvin and South West Acute hospitals because of “high levels of demand due to winter pressures”.

Western Trust Chief Executive, Elaine Way made the appeal to GPs in Derry, Strabane, Limavady, Omagh and Fermanagh areas, including the GP Out of Hours Service to consider using other alternatives such as the Rapid Response Community Team.

The move follows the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) stating the pressures Accident and Emergency departments in hospitals across the North, including the Western Area remain high despite some improvement.

The HSCB said all Trusts have experienced a “challenging” two-week period as they have seen a 7% increase in activity in Emergency Departments compared with the same period last year but a concerted effort continues right across Health and Social Care in Northern Ireland to alleviate pressures in Emergency Departments and ensure patients are not experiencing undue delays. As of 9am on Thursday, the Board said no patients were waiting longer than 12 hours in any Emergency Department across Northern Ireland.

“As a result of the pressures on Emergency Departments, a total of 179 non-urgent elective procedures have been postponed between 1st and 9th January,” said a spokesperson. Of those 179, 45 admissions were due at Altnagelvin.

Meantime, a Western Trust spokesperson said: “This time of the year is usually an extremely busy time for Emergency Departments across Northern Ireland due to winter pressures.

“This was the case at both Altnagelvin and South West Acute Hospitals in recent days.

“We would encourage the public to use Emergency Departments wisely and only attend if absolutely necessary.”

Secretary of the Western Local Medical Committee, Dr. Martin McCloskey said: “As always we are very aware of the pressures on hospitals and we always consider that and try not to overload it, but obviously our first priority has to be our patients’ welfare. So, if a patient requires hospital treatment it is our duty to send them to hospital, regardless of any alerts. General practice is exceedingly busy at the moment as well. For example, in my own practice we had over 60 requests for same day appointments on January 5.”

East Derry MLA John Dallat said: “The pressure on local doctors is unreal in terms of the patients they see and treat daily.

“It’s difficult to see how they would be able to absorb any more pressure, particularly the pressure of people needing to attend A&E.”