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GP out-of-hours services outline unprecedented recent demand

D-Doc, based in North Dublin, was so busy on 27 December that it was forced to pause the call service temporarily to deal with the volume of callers and visitors to its centres.

At co-op NEDOC in the North East, appointments were completely booked up on at least two days over Christmas, leaving some patients unable to receive an urgent out-of-hours appointment on the same day.

Dr Gary Stack, Medical Director at Southdoc, told the Medical Independent (MI) that St Stephen’s Day was the busiest day the co-op had experienced to date.

Some 2,232 contacts were made on St Stephen’s Day, a 25 per cent increase on the same day the previous year, Dr Stack revealed.

Overall, between 24 and 27 December, there were 7,248 contacts compared to 5,156 over the same time period the previous year. This represented a 39 per cent rise, according to Dr Stack.

Furthermore, on New Year’s Eve, New Year’s Day and Bank Holiday Monday, there were 5,367 contacts compared to 3,506 the previous year – a 53 per cent increase.

Mr Liam Quinn, CEO of Northdoc in north Dublin, told MI there was a definite surge in numbers over Christmas at D-Doc.

This was the co-op’s 11th Christmas in operation and the most demanding to date, Mr Quinn said, with 140 local GPs working between 24 December and 3 January.

Calls to the service were up by an average of 39 per cent since last year, he added. A quarter of all contacts managed over Christmas were from children under-six.

Mr Quinn said the flu was up 94 per cent compared to the same period last year, while over 520 calls were handled by the co-op on 27 December, with five centres open and three cars on the road.

“We paused the call service temporarily on the 27th to deal with the volumes,” Mr Quinn related.

“The spike in demand is largely due to the spike in flu. This is exacerbated by the increase in demand for free healthcare to the under-sixes. GPs have responded very well in trying to deal with these patient numbers.”

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