GPs likely to keep phone first system to cope with huge pressures despite patient unease

GPs in Northern Ireland have said they will be keeping a phone first system that was widely used during the pandemic, despite reservations from some patients.

UTV visited one practice in Armagh that deals with hundreds of patients every day, and in a variety of ways.

By the time it closes for the day:

  • 500 patients will have received their Covid booster

  • More than 200 calls will have been answered

  • Over 100 patients will have been seen face to face by a GP or a nurse

And it's a struggle to meet the demand placed on services.

All GP practices are under the same pressure - Dr Frances O'Hagan says that GPs are attempting to deal with a 20% increase in demand, with a workforce 10% smaller than before the pandemic.

Patients are now triaged on the phone, but not all are offered a face-to-face appointment.

It has not been a popular system with many patients, but GPs say it is the best way forward.

Dr O'Hagan says that it allows for doctors to properly understand what a patient will require before coming into the practice.

With the old system, GPs would often be unaware of the nature of a patient's problem when the booking was made. Like all areas of the health system, GP services are badly broken - and it's difficult to see how they can be fixed.

Dr Laurence Dorman of the Royal College of GPs for Northern Ireland was clear in what he thinks needs to be done.

"It is vital that our government and our department of health invests in General Practice where the majority of patient care lies," he said.