By Michael Klimes
Increased demand and changes to out-of-hours services are jeopardising patient safety across the country, LMC leaders in Northern Ireland have warned.
GPs at the Northern Ireland LMC conference in Enniskillen this weekend warned that urgent cases were being delayed due to increased amounts of 'box-ticking' bureaucracy and a lack of staff to meet demand for their services.
At the conference, Dr Eugene Deeny, a GP in Fermanagh, said he has watched with 'increasing uneasiness' at how out-of-hours care is changing. 'There are pernickety protocols and box ticking but little attention paid by management of things such as staffing meet demand.
'Patient safety will suffer, and things will only get worse if proposals to centralise the service take place. The out-of-hours service needs to be kept local.'
Dr Rachel McKenzie, who works regularly in an out-of-hours service in Northern Ireland said: 'Patients are increasingly seeing the GP out of hours service as an extension of the daytime GP service, which is leading to increased demand.
'Genuine, urgent, cases are therefore being delayed and it is only a matter of time before significant harm comes to a patient who has had to wait see an out-of-hours doctor," she added.