Half of calls to the Out of Hours are for minor ailments that don’t need an urgent care service, according to the Southern Health Trust.
Dr John Simpson, Southern Trust Medical Director, says the Trust’s urgent Out of Hours Service is being inundated by people calling about minor ailments.
At least 50% of all calls to Out of Hours are estimated to be non-urgent and this is increasing waiting times for people using the service.
Dr Simpson said: “GP Out of Hours is not a replacement or a substitute for visiting a GP surgery during daytime hours.
“It is a separate and distinct service which provides care and treatment to people with urgent medical conditions like shortness of breath, fits or seizures, or severe mental health problems.
“Unfortunately, the service is very often inundated with calls about minor ailments like a blister on a heel, cold sores, common cold symptoms and other minor issues.”
Dr Simpson added: “I don’t want to discourage people from using the service if they need it, but the large volume of people contacting the service for non-urgent reasons is increasing waiting times because our staff are spending valuable time assessing and responding to every call received.
“We want to provide a better GP out of hours service but we can only do this with the public’s help - we need people to contact GP Out of Hours only if they have serious and urgent conditions.
“There are other services available like Minor Injuries and pharmacies that can help you, so please think carefully before choosing the right one. For more information go to: www.nidirect.gov.uk/choosewell”