Health Minister Robin Swann announces GPs to carry out all vasectomy services in Northern Ireland

Health Minister Robin Swann is re-allocating £450,000 to primary care so that GPs can carry out vasectomies

Vasectomies are to be carried out by GPs in Northern Ireland rather than in hospitals, Health Minister Robin Swann has announced.

Mr Swann said he believed the decision, which will begin to take effect immediately, will result in hundreds more procedures on men being carried out in the first year.

It will involve around £450,000 per year being re-allocated to primary care.

Last year funding was withdrawn from general practices for a number of services, including vasectomies.

Mr Swann’s funding announcement means there will be a transition phase for services throughout 2024/25, and from 2025/26 onwards, GPs will be the sole provider of health service vasectomy services.

Scalpel-free vasectomies have been provided by GPs in recent years through the primary care elective care service.

Funding, however, had been on a non-recurrent basis and was not provided for the second half of 2023/24 due to health service budgetary pressures.

About 1,000 patients are currently on hospital waiting lists for the procedure.

Mr Swann said: “My decision will ensure a more localised service for patients, and I am confident it will result in hundreds more procedures being provided in the first year alone.

“This innovation is a positive example of services being relocated for the benefit of patients – and with lower costs per procedure.”

Dr Joe Devlin, clinical director for the Primary Care Vasectomy Service, said: “We have been providing a high quality, easily accessible, cost-effective vasectomy service in primary care for several years now.

“The announcement by the minister today provides long-term security for the future of the service, allowing us to plan more effectively to deliver and develop the service.

“It is a welcome vote of confidence in primary care that it can be the main provider of important services like this.”

Dr Ursula Mason, a GP in Carryduff and chair of the Royal College of GPs Northern Ireland, said: “We know that the suspension of this vital service last October caused a lot of worry for people across our communities.

“We welcome the positive impact the reinstatement of GP vasectomy services will have for patients, who will now be able to make more equitable decisions around family planning, rather than being faced with widening socio-economic and gender-based health inequalities.”

She added: “This investment in GP vasectomy services is an example of transformation in action, allowing patients who would otherwise have been languishing on prohibitively long waiting lists in secondary care to be able to be treated more quickly, at an affordable cost, closer to home.

“This announcement is testament to what is possible with a functioning Executive and minister who is willing to take robust decisions which will benefit patients in the long-term.

“I want to thank minister Swann for investing in general practice, and hope this is the first decision of many to strengthen our services and to allow us to deliver better outcomes for our patients.”

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