The Southern Health Trust has apologised after patients waited for more than five hours to speak to a GP at Craigavon’s out-of-hours service recently.
One concerned resident contacted the Times to complain that she had contacted out-of-hours by telephone on behalf of her elderly mother-in-law on a Sunday afternoon.
However, it was only after another telephone call and a five-hour wait that a doctor finally rang back.
The trust apologised for the delays, revealing that out-of-hours had catered for 1,449 patients that weekend.
It now says it is working to increase the number of GPs working during busy weekends in March.
A spokeswoman said, “The trust is unable to comment on individual cases but would be happy to speak to the lady if she contacts the trust.
“We would like to apologise to patients for the inconvenience caused by the delay in receiving a call back from the GP out-of-hours service over the past weekend.
“The GP out-of-hours provided a service to 1,449 patients. The service gave priority to patients with urgent medical conditions and those less urgent patients, unfortunately, had longer times to wait for a call back.
“The trust is working to increase the number of GPs working over the busy weekend periods in March.”
The trust says it has already been introducing specially trained nurses into the service to “provide telephone advice” and to “manage face to face consultation where appropriate”.
“We want to assure residents that the trust remains fully committed to providing the GP out-of -ours service.
“We are working with the Health and Social Care Board on the capacity within the service to meet the needs of patients and working through options to manage the service safely across the trust.”