Northern Ireland news

Overloaded GPs ask patients: Do you really need an appointment?

GPs have been under "immense pressure" this winter, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners Northern Ireland
David Young

NORTHERN Ireland GPs have launched a campaign encouraging patients to help ease the pressure on their service by thinking hard before booking appointments.

The GPs are urging people to consider whether their problem can be dealt with in another way.

The Royal College of General Practitioners Northern Ireland said GPs' workload had increased significantly in the past decade but investment in general practice had not increased accordingly.

It said the north's GPs were under "immense pressure" this winter.

The 3 Before GP campaign, advocated by a working group made up of GPs and patients, urges people to ask themselves three questions before booking an appointment: Can the problem be self-treated? Is advice available on a reputable website? And could treatment be sought at a pharmacy?

Karen Mooney, chair of the the college's patients in practice group, said: "As patients, we are keen to do what we can to help support our struggling health service.

"I am very pleased to support this initiative, aiming to reduce pressure on GP services and help ensure that those patients who need care the most are able to access their family doctor.

"Working alongside GPs in the college, our patient group is acutely aware of the pressure GPs are facing.

"We are asking GPs, pharmacists and others to display the new campaign poster to give patients information on how to best use services. This is our health service - and everyone has a role to play in making sure people can access the care they need, in the right place, at the right time.

"Not being able to get an appointment can be very frustrating - but while services are under pressure, we are encouraging people across the region to think carefully about the care they need and to be mindful of cancelling any booked appointments that they can no longer attend."

Ms Mooney added: "We can all play our part in trying to relieve some of the pressure within our health service and we hope that this initiative will allow GPs to spend more time with patients with more complex care needs who need it most."

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