Northern Ireland news

Health chiefs insist 'vital' GP Covid Centres will continue in Northern Ireland

Health chiefs say GP led Covid Centres are "vital" in Northern Ireland despite criticism about their benefits at this point in the pandemic
Seanín Graham

DEPARTMENT of health chiefs last night insisted that GP led Covid Centres would continue to operate despite concerns about their benefits.

The Irish News had asked for a detailed weekly breakdown of patient referrals to the assessment facilities since they were set up in late March in response to the pandemic.

No swabbing for coronavirus is carried out at the centres - there are ten across the north - and some doctors have expressed concerns about dwindling numbers attending.

In a statement, a department spokeswoman described the facilities kept covid patients away from GP centres.

No breakdown was available for the number of patients being seen or staffing figures.

The spokeswoman added: "The need for primary care Covid-19 centres remains as part of our ongoing work to contain the Covid 19 pandemic...A regional project board oversees the operation of COVID-19 centres and the Department is working closely with them to monitor the number and location of centres, as well as the way in which they operate.

"At present, all of the centres remain operational and staffed to meet patient demand, an which is agreed at local level. Where capacity in the Centres exceeds patient demand during particular periods, staff are able to carry out other duties whilst remaining on standby to assist patients in the centres should demand increase.

"Figures have not yet been validated however, our live information indicates that there have been 33,631 Covid-19 related queries in General Practice from 9th to 27th May 2020, of which 5,928 patients were triaged and referred to Covid-19 Centres across Northern Ireland. 15% of patients assessed at these centres are then referred to secondary care. 74% are provided with advice on self-management.

"The expenditure to date for the centres is £1,538.4k."

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