With around 3,000 more calls to the GP Out of Hours during the holiday period this year, the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) have reminded the public to consider their options before ringing the service.
They point out that the GP Out of Hours service is a ring back service for those with serious and urgent conditions that cannot wait until their own GP surgery reopens. Those patients with less urgent (routine) conditions may have to wait longer for a call back during busy periods as staff will prioritise the most urgent and serious patients.
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.”
There are a range of alternative services that people can access if they do not need urgent care. These include using the online A-Z symptom checker, (https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/services/health-conditions-a-z).