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Concerns mount over viability of OOH GP services

Disenfranchised GPs are considering “working to contract” out-of-hours (OOH) due to growing concerns about the viability and sustainability of the service.

Several GPs have told the Medical Independent (MI) the OOH service is at crisis-point as workload levels are unsafe and unsustainable due to increased demand.

Following what has been the busiest winter on record for some OOH providers, many doctors believe action must now be taken to save the urgent care service from collapse.

East Cork GP Dr Mike Thompson told MI he had a number of concerns about the service and that “working to contract may now be our best move”.

Dr Thompson called for “no inequity towards GPs who hold the same GMS contract” and argued that OOH work is not a core part of GP work and should therefore be “uncoupled from the GMS contract”.

He would also like to see equal terms and conditions for GPs and an examination of the OOH obligation of non-GMS GPs.

Currently, some GP co-ops do not rely on member payments while others do not have mandatory rotas; however, this is the case at other services, such as Southdoc, Dr Thompson said.

OOH demand rose by 12 per cent during the Christmas and New Year period in East Cork, when compared to the previous season.

The cell, a part of Southdoc, serves a population of about 60,000 and handled 23,000 attendances in 2019. It is expected to lose two GPs this year.

In the last five years (2014-2019), patient contacts at Southdoc jumped by 18 per cent.

A public campaign to educate patients about the urgent care service should commence, Dr Thompson added.

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