Northern Ireland

GPs welcome transfer of vasectomy services in Northern Ireland

A leading GP said transferring the service to primary care would stop more patients “languishing on prohibitively long waiting lists”

A six-month notice period is underway at Brookeborough and Tempo Surgery in Co Fermanagh following the notice of GPs to withdraw from their contract to provide services.
GPs in Northern Ireland are to take over vasectomy services.

GPs in Northern Ireland have welcomed a decision to transfer vasectomy services to primary care.

Health Minister Robin Swann said it would result in more procedures being provided locally, including hundreds in the first year alone.

“This innovation is a positive example of services being relocated for the benefit of patients – and with lower costs per procedure,” he said.

Around 1,000 patients are currently waiting for a vasectomy in secondary care, with the Department of Health stating the “low levels” of uptake reflected the needs of staff to focus on “more complex and acute needs”.

Between £450k to £500k of annual funding will now be moved away from health trusts towards primary care.

Services will transition throughout 2024/25 before being fully taken over by primary care for 2025/26.

In recent years, scalpel-free vasectomies have been provided by GPs through a primary care elective service.

Budget pressures, however, saw funding pulled for the second-half of 2023/24.

Dr Joe Devlin, clinical director for the Primary Care Vasectomy Service, called it “a welcome vote of confidence” that would allow his team to plan more effectively for the future.

Carryduff-based GP, Dr Ursula Mason, and Chair of the Royal College of GPs Northern Ireland said it was an important step in transforming the health service, allowing more patients to be treated close to home instead of “languishing on prohibitively long waiting lists in secondary care.”

“We know that the suspension of (the GP Elective Care Services) last October caused a lot of worry for people across our communities,” she said.

“We welcome the positive impact the reinstatement of GP vasectomy services will have for patients, who will now be able to make more equitable decisions around family planning, rather than being faced with widening socio-economic and gender-based health inequalities.”

She said GP colleagues already valued the opportunity GPECs gave to improve their skills, with community-based interventions and treatment through primary care central to transforming the health service.

Calling it a first step towards realising the 2017 “Delivering together” 10-year plan, she said it was “testament to what is possible with functioning Executive and Minister who is willing to take robust decisions” to benefit patients in the long-term.

“I want to thank Minister Swann for investing in general practice, and hope this is the first decision of many to strengthen our services and to allow us to deliver better outcomes for our patients,” she said.

Minister of Health Robin Swann with Ursula Mason, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in NI, at the college’s conference in the Tullyglass Hotel in Ballymena .
Minister of Health Robin Swann with Ursula Mason, chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in NI. (David Young/PA)