Local MLA Justin McNulty has called for a fundamental rethink of the way the Out of Hours medical services are configured. Mr McNulty made the call as the Department of Health confirmed monies are being allocated to transform the health service locally.

Mr McNulty said, "Out of Hours Services, be that GP Services, Minor Injuries or indeed the Accident and Emergency Services are a fundamental part of the health service but they need to be expanded and supported to meet the needs of our society today.

"We tend to look at each part of the health service locally as different entities, however there must be a fundamental rethink of the way services are configured and a complete new approach taken to primary care, including the Out of Hours’ services."

MLA Justin McNulty at the Southern Trust Headquarters.
MLA Justin McNulty at the Southern Trust Headquarters.

Mr McNulty continues "How often do we hear that our Emergency Departments are packed to capacity and there is a plea issued to only turn up if necessary, and yet at the same time we hear of people turning up to the wrong service for the wrong ailment. If the service was reconfigured and people were directed to a properly resourced Out of Hours Service, then this would ease pressure on a struggling system but would also direct people to the appropriate service in a cost effective manner."

The MLA has suggested that the service could be transformed by being boosted, extended and resourced, to include an Out of Hours Mental Health Service, an Out of Hours Pharmacy Service as well as an Out of Hours GP Service,

"Included in this newly reconstructed service there would have to be local bases in Newry, Armagh and South Armagh and a minor injury service must also be central to the provision. This would ease pressures on our stretched Emergency Departments and cut down on the number of people attending the wrong services."

Mr McNulty concluded "This is a conversation we must be up for and we must acknowledge that additional resources, including staffing and finance would be required to make it happen. I have already spoken to the Chief Executive of the Southern Trust on this issue and it is something I want to see progressed in the near future."

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