Doctors are urging people in Londonderry and beyond to think carefully about how they use the health service as figures reveal over 5,000 people failed to turn up for a GP appointment and around 4,500 failed to turn up for an appointment with a nurse.
The statistics were released by the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) at the launch of the ‘Choose Well’ campaign which urges people to think carefully this winter about how they use health and social care services should they or their family become unwell or have an accident.
Dr Ian Clements, Chair of the HSCB and former GP, encouraged the public to ‘Think Where and Choose Well.’
“‘Choose Well’ is about informing and empowering people to make the right decisions about which health and social care services to use.
“We have included information on mental health as part of the Choose Well campaign this year, as we felt it was really important that people are aware of the full range of physical and mental health services and how best to use them. We are very grateful to the Mental Health Rights campaign groups and Participation and Practice of Rights for all of their feedback and support in ensuring the information was tailored to the needs of those experiencing mental health difficulties or their families,” he said.
Dr Clements added: “The majority of people use services appropriately, however, there are a number of people, for a variety of reasons who don’t. For example, as demonstrated by the statistics released today, clearly, booking an appointment with a GP or nurse and then not turning up is a waste of resources and takes that slot away from someone who really needs it. I know a lot of work is ongoing to address this issue but we need the public’s continued support.
“It is essential that at a time of increasing pressure on urgent care services and decreasing budgets, we prioritise our use of resources to deal with urgent and emergency cases.”
Launching the campaign Health Minister Jim Wells said:
“‘Choose Well’ is about enabling staff in our emergency services to focus on the people who are the most sick and injured this winter.
“It’s about making it clear to the public that emergency and 999 services are for life threatening and serious conditions. Many minor healthcare issues can be dealt with at home or by seeking the advice of a pharmacist.
“Before you dial 999 or go to your local Emergency Department, think about your options. I don’t want to discourage those with a genuine medical emergency from calling 999, but simply ask that they ‘Choose Well’ and consider the range of other more appropriate services available.”
BMA Northern Ireland Council Chair Dr John D. Woods said: “It is vital that we all choose the appropriate service for our healthcare needs, particularly during the winter months when demand for GP and Out-of-hours services is higher. It is also crucial that people keep any appointments they have made or inform the practice if they no longer need to see a doctor so that others can benefit.
“Many common ailments can also be treated effectively through self-care or by a pharmacist, however those with serious concerns about their health should of course always consult their GP or an Out-of-hours service.
“Choosing well means that stretched services are more readily available for those in more serious need and will ensure the system is better able to serve us all more efficiently.”