Eighty-one per cent of calls to GP out-of-hours (OOH) services across the North this Christmas were non-urgent, it's emerged.
The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) has revealed that between Christmas Eve and New Year's Day just 19 per cent of calls to the under pressure service were for people with serious or urgent conditions.
With around 3,000 more calls to the GP OOH this year compared with 2016/17, the HSCB have reminded the public to consider their options before ringing the service, which is designed to be used by terminally ill people, very sick children and frail elderly people.
HSCB said it's a ring back service for those with serious and urgent conditions that cannot wait until their own GP surgery reopens.
Director of Integrated Care at the HSCB Dr Sloan Harper said: “This is an important urgent care service but it’s not an alternative to the normal everyday GP service.
“So it’s not intended to be used for repeat prescriptions, minor ailments (such as bumps, bruises and sprains, minor cuts or colds, etc.) – or if people are too busy to get to the doctor’s during the day.
“With increased pressure on the GP Out of Hours Service we would urge patients to choose well and consider whether they are able to manage their problems through self-care, or by visiting their local Pharmacy, or contacting their usual GP the next day if more appropriate.”
From Decemebr 23, 2017 to January 1, 2018, the five GP Out of Hours services received 30,360 calls.
This represents a 10 per cent increase on the same period last year.
Of the 30,360 calls, 5,711 (19 per cent) were classed as urgent and 24,649 (81 per cent) as non-urgent.
Around 93 per cent. of urgent calls were triaged within an hour.
It should also be noted that during this period, there was an increase in the number of Out of Hours consultations for flu or flu-like symptoms and respiratory illnesses.