Enhanced out-of-hours GP service ‘essential’

A GP practice. Stock image.
A GP practice. Stock image.

The Health and Social Care Board is urged to continue funding an enhanced out-of-hours GP service in Limavady once its trial period concludes next month.

The Local Enhanced Service, which is manned by local doctors, operates betwween 7.00pm and 9.30pm from the Sroggy Road Health Centre.

It was introduced in October past on a pilot basis against a backdrop of Western Urgent Care (WUC) reporting increasing difficulty in filling GP out-of-hours (OOH) shifts.

A board spokesperson explained: “In light of this, the Health and Social Care Board and WUC liaised with GPs in the Limavady locality to develop a Local Enhanced Service (LES) Evening Surgery. This LES Evening surgery was introduced in October 2016 and is being piloted until end of March 2017. An evaluation of the service will take place to determine future provision.

“The surgery runs from 7.00 pm to 9.30 pm each weekday evening (excluding bank holidays). There is no change to the way patients access the service. Patients should continue to contact WUC in the usual way. Calls will be triaged, and if necessary, WUC will offer an appointment with the LES GP.”

The spokesperson went on to emphasise the LES is not an alternative to the daytime GP service in Limavady.

“It is for urgent conditions that cannot wait until the patient’s own GP surgery is next open. WUC continue to provide OOH services for patients in Limavady at all other times during the OOH period.”

Praising GPs for their support of the trial, East Londonderry DUP Assembly candidate George Robinson said he would like to see it become a permanent feature.

Mr Robinson told the Sentinel: “The trial known as the Local Enhanced Service (LES), which is manned by local GPs, helps people needing medical assistance to be seen by a doctor in the early evening. These consultations will take place at the Scroggy Road Health Centre.

“I have consistently expressed concern about the level of coverage of out-of-hours in Limavady over many years, indeed I had handed in a petition of almost 6000 signatures in Stormont, so I see this trial as a very welcome development and hope that it can become a permanent feature of the medical infrastructure in Limavady.

“This additional service from the HSCB is so essential I will be urging that funding for the service is continued.”