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Councillor criticises six-week wait for GP appointments in Northern Ireland

A councillor has expressed frustration over long GP waiting times in Northern Ireland amid a growing workforce crisis in the region. 

Paul McCusker tweeted earlier this month that people in North Belfast can wait up to six weeks to see their GP, highlighting his intention to raise the issue with the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB).

GP leaders in Northern Ireland said that it only takes a 'minor occurence', such as 'sick leave' for a practice to become unstable.

HSCB said it was working with GPs and the Department of Health to tackle the pressures faced by general practice in Northern Ireland, including workforce. 

BMA Northern Ireland previously warned that the health service in the region 'cannot cope' unless the devolved assembly is restored. 

Cllr McCusker tweeted it is 'unacceptable' to have to wait six weeks to see a GP. 

He said: 'Waiting time of six weeks to see your own GP in North Belfast is unacceptable giving the high amount of chronic illnesses, mental health and addiction problems and patients having to contact the out-of-hours GP to be seen quicker. I will be writing to HSCB to raise concerns.'

He told Belfast Live the issue was raised by a number of his constituents after being told they could not see their GP before October, with one of his own relatives having to wait up to eight weeks. 

BMA Northern Ireland's GP Committee chair Dr Alan Stout said: 'While overall the pressures faced by primary care are easing slightly, there are still areas under pressure. It only takes one relatively minor occurrence, like sick leave, for a practice to quite quickly become unstable. That is why we are working with the Department of Health to ensure measures like the multi-disciplinary teams are rolled out as quickly as possible.'

A HSCB spokesperson said: 'As GPs continue to serve a growing and ageing population with increasingly complex health needs, general practice is also affected by the pressures being experienced across the wider health and care system. The HSCB has been working with GPs and the Department of Health to address these issues.

'Work is progressing to modernise the traditional GP model by creating primary care multi-disciplinary teams, where other healthcare professionals such as pharmacists, advanced nurse practitioners, and physiotherapists are also consulting with patients from GP premises.'

Readers' comments (7)

  • Six weeks wait to see a GP will seem like nothing if the H3N2 flu arrives from Australia. But you will be able to get a walk-in appointment with the NO WIN, NO FEE solicitor on the high street.

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  • When was the last time the devolved government in NI sat again!!!!

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  • The “best” health care system in the world according to uk politicians lmfao

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  • So much for BEST health care system in the world. Low morale workforce, ridiculous rules, over regulation, micromanagement, one sided contracts that tries to make people work for free and a system that actively discourages more work. Best healthcare? Pissed off workers will never give their best. I find it amazing it is functioning as well with all these factors but it may just be a matter of time.

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  • Shame on all you GPs in the province only seeing a new patient every 10 mins with a list of complaints hour after hour and doing all the admin in your own time at the expense of your families.
    Interested to hear what Cllr McCusker’s answers are beyond writing a letter complaining to the HSCB...

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  • ‘Anne McCusker, mum of SDLP man Paul McCusker, has been selling cigarettes and other goods from the back of the vehicle at her Ardoyne home.
    Last month councillor McCusker called for a financial hardship package for shopkeepers in the Ardoyne area he represents.
    When confronted about her unregistered tobacconist store, Mrs McCusker held her hands up and admitted it could be embarrassing for her politician son.
    She faces a £5,000 fine if convicted of not registering as a tobacco retailer with Belfast City Council.
    "It could be embarrassing for him," she told the Sunday Life.
    "If that's the case I'll just close."’

    Copied from the Belfast Telegraph

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  • Northern Ireland has a different mentality to rest of UK.

    Politicians do not need policies on healthcare or education. Therefore you have one of the most expensive and least effective systems.

    Politicians can be openly corrupt as long as they keep the other 'uns out. It's all bonfires, flags and languages. People are literally dying for this nonsense.

    A doctor had tried to organise GPs a few years ago to take stand but they're bluff was called and they folded. Toothless.

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