Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Staffing ‘difficulties’ impacts on Daisy Hill based Out-of-Hours facility

Difficulties in filling GP shifts in Daisy Hill’s Out of Hours service recently led to a staffing shortage at the Newry base, The Examiner has learned.

The Southern Trust has confirmed that it has been experiencing difficulties for some time in ensuring doctors’ shifts are covered in the Out of Hours facility and that the service was not fully staffed on one overnight occasion earlier this month.

The issue came to light following claims by Sinn Fein MLA Mickey Brady that the Newry Out of Hours facility has been closed “regularly” and that such closures have happened throughout the Southern board area.  He said those paying the price for the lack of services are the people who need them and the workers placed at the front line having to cope without these essential resources.

Mr Brady says he has written to the Southern Board asking them about the night time closures and also queried what impact any closures had on A& E services.

He revealed that the initial response from the Southern Trust blamed “this sorry state on the fact that staff couldn’t be got to work there”.

“Questions need to be answered,” he said.  “There has to be a straight talking discussion involving all stakeholders as to where the Board and senior Management are taking Daisy Hill.  We need to find out if there are medical staff shortages, why this is the case and exactly where the Board are looking to recruit those staff and remedy this situation as a matter of urgency.”

Mr Brady’s claims have been refuted by the Southern Trust who, in response to queries from The Examiner, admitted that GP shortages in the Out of Hours Service meant that the service was not fully staffed overnight on Monday 5th January.

A spokesperson said all patients who needed the GP Out of Hours service on that occasion had received a telephone consultation, appointment at Daisy Hill Hospital base or a home visit.

Despite offering reassurances to the public that the GP Out of Hours service in Newry and across the Southern Trust Area “has never been closed” to patients,” the spokesperson added: “even if a base is closed, patients are still able to get telephone advice and home visits and if a base visit was required, they may be advised to attend one of the Trust’s other GP OOH bases”.

“The GP Out of Hours Service provides services to the total Southern Trust population of approximately 360,000 people. This is a telephone-based service (you have to ring first) and is always available from 6.00 pm each weekday evening and available 24 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays and Bank Holidays.

“We continue to make every effort to ensure that reduced opening times at our GP Out of Hours are kept to a minimum and we want to remind people that they should always phone the GP Out of Hours first on Tel: 028 3839 9201,” the spokesperson said.