This site is intended for health professionals only

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.’