DUP Health Minister Jim Wells has vowed to urgently recruit GPs for the Out of Hours Service at Craigavon.
However, the DUP MP for Upper Bann David Simpson said his colleague admitted it was “proving very difficult”.
This situation is worsening, particularly at weekendsDavid Simpson
Mr Simpson called for a meeting with the minister following a significant number of complaints about long delays in call backs, appointments and treatment.
The MP said, “This situation is worsening, particularly at weekends. I have been inundated with complaints and concerns about the length of time it takes for a call back from the out-of-hours services and also to get an appointment.
“One family just this weekend had two very ill children with suspected glandular fever and they had to wait eight hours before getting a call back.
“This is totally unacceptable.
“I requested an urgent meeting with the Minister who has given assurances that he is working to urgently recruit general practitioners for the Out of Hours service but it was proving very difficult given the long hours that GPs are currently working and with the increased workload in their own practices.”
Of the almost 1,000 patients who used the Out of Hours service last weekend, less than a quarter were urgent cases, the Southern Health Trust revealed. A total of 979 calls were made on both Saturday and Sunday.
Of those the vast majority were ‘routine’ calls - a whopping 739 and just 240 regarded as ‘urgent’.
On Saturday the service took 485 calls of which 373 were ‘routine’ and 112 ‘urgent’. On Sunday there were 494 calls of which 366 were ‘routine’ and 128 ‘urgent’.
The trust stresses that the Out of Hours service is for patients who need ‘urgent’ attention that cannot wait until their GP surgery opens.
“Urgent calls will always be prioritised,” said a spokesperson.
The trust pointed out that last year the service had 100,763 contacts, 50,122 of these were dealt with by telephone advice, 44,015 required an appointment at an Out of Hours base and 6,626 needed a home visit.
The trust also revealed that it is currently recruiting more nurses to work in the out of hours service for the Craigavon area.