GP out of hours staff in the Southern Trust took an average of 70 calls per hour at the weekend.
The trust say the service was “exceptionally busy” and stressed that many of the calls made were “not urgent” and included complaints about minor ailments like coughs and runny noses.
A trust spokesperson said, “The Southern Trust’s GP Out of Hours service was exceptionally busy at the weekend - our staff worked tirelessly in their efforts to respond to an average of 70 calls an hour received.
“At these times of exceptional demand when there are so many people phoning GP Out of Hours, it can take longer for a GP to return a non-urgent call. All urgent calls will always be given priority.
“Unfortunately at times of peak demand on the service, long waits for call backs can be expected for patients with non-urgent problems. Any patient waiting for a call back whose condition gets worse should call the GP Out of Hours service back.
“Many of the calls to the GP Out of Hours service at the weekend were not urgent and did not require urgent care – these included minor ailments like: coughs, runny noses, etc... We would like to remind people that The GP Out of Hours Service is only for urgent medical problems that cannot wait until their GP practice opens.
“People should always phone the GP Out of Hours first on 028 3839 9201. About 50% of patients who contact the service receive telephone advice and do not need to attend a centre.”
The Southern Trust is appealing to people to help health and social services cope with the extra pressures by choosing the right service to meet their needs. The Choose Well campaign aims to help people gain a better understanding of the health services available to treat everything from a common cold to a major emergency. For more information on choosing the right service visit www.nidirect.gov.uk/choosewell