‘Patients could die before they get an appointment’

Fears that patients could die before they could get an appointment at Banbridge Group Surgery have been raised by politicians.

Their concern comes in a week when it was learned that patients are having to wait for at least three weeks for an appointment at the Old Hospital Road facility.

The issue is to be raised at Stormont after SDLP MLA Dolores Kelly tabled a question for Health Minister, Edwin Poots over waiting times.

And her party colleague, Councillor Marie Hamilton, will be asking questions at the next meeting of Banbridge District Council’s Health Committee.

Councillor Hamilton felt it was very worrying and said she was disappointed by the situation.

“We have a situation where people with serious illnesses and problems are unable to get an appointment to see their doctor. Something needs done about this urgently,” she said.

“I know the district has lost a lot of services and we are waiting on a new health centre to be built at the site of the old hospital but we need to alleviate the pressure on GPs so that as many people can be seen as possible.”

She had a number of suggestions for improving the service. “I’m calling for at least one doctor at a time to be free to see patients who have an urgent need, who is almost ‘on call’ during surgery hours.

“I’m also asking for an expansion of surgery hours to allow for weekend appointments. A lot of people who live in Banbridge don’t work in the town, so for those people to get an appointment it means they have to take a day off work.

“At a time when we are trying to take pressure off the local A&E departments I feel that these simple changes would help achieve this.

“We need an increase of hour and in the number of doctors available. The district needs a better service.”

Mrs Kelly announced on Friday that she would be raising the issue with the Health Minister, asking if he felt there were enough GPs, if waiting times were satisfactory and about the possibility of allowing for Saturday hours as part of the ‘Transforming Your Care’ programme.