Specialist GP clinics designed to cut down on waitings lists are to have their funding halved

Another symptom of the pressure our health service is under, came with the news that Specialist GP clinics set up to help tackle waiting lists are to lose half their funding.

The Department of Health had decided to cut back funding for the elective care service which is likely to have the greatest impact on gynaecology and vasectomy procedures.

In the face of mounting waiting lists, the specialist GP service is regarded as a big success.

Clinics cover elective procedures such as gynaecology, dermatology, vasectomy and minor surgery

Cutting back their funding by as much as fifty percent is, doctors, warn, a retrograde step

Dr Siobhan McEntee is the Regional Clinical Lead for the Elective Care services. She said: "At the end of every appointment is a real patient who is often in distress and suffering and they’re the ones we have to think about".

She continued: "This service also goes to areas that maybe don’t have as many services so we are right across the Country. We have a hundred GPs and we also have over 50 practices."

Dr Frances O'Hagan is the Deputy Chair of the Northern Ireland Practitioners Committee She said: "We have taken the time to train GPs and to upskill them in these services. It means they can then take those skills and bring them back to their own practice. It’s benefited not only the doctors and the patients they have seen in the clinics but also the patients in their own practices".

In a statement, The Department of Health said it “remained committed to the delivery of elective care services in Primary Care in line with the strategic direction of the Elective Care Framework”.

It went on to state that “despite the ongoing financial pressures across all departments a total of two point one million pounds has been secured to support the continuation of the Primary Elective Care Service model across five pathways until March next year”.

It added that it would work with GPs to continue the elective care services within the available funding.

That said the cutback will also affect doctors who want to enhance their skills by training in gynaecology and dermatology procedures

Since they began five years ago Specialist elective care clinics have taken sixty thousand patients off the waiting lists.

But with the cutback in funding, GPs are in no doubt about what it means in the future – a further rise in hospital waiting lists.

"The waiting lists are going to get longer" said Dr O'Hagan adding "the patients are not going to be seen in a timely manner, and possibly some of those patients are going to go on Hospital waiting lists if the clinics are not provided in Primary Care".

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know.