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Calls for new GP specialist care initiative to be rolled out into Armagh

Welcome first step to alleviate pressures on GP surgeries and waiting lists must be extended, says MLA

A new initiative to bring mental health specialists, physiotherapists and social workers into GP surgeries should be extended into Newry and Armagh.

That is the fresh call from one local MLA, who insists such a move would ease pressures, and allow for future planning within the Health Service.

The impact the lack of workforce planning had on the Emergency Department in Daisy Hill Hospital in Newry – and in services in the community – has already been seen, says the SDLP’s Justin McNulty.

And moves to apply more than a “sticking plaster approach” will be needed for a health service in crisis, he added.

Mr McNulty was speaking after a scheme implemented under the Bengoa report was introduced this week which aims to provide patients with a more specialised and efficient model of health care.

“Last week the Department of Health announced the commencement of a new initiative in both rural County Down and Derry City,” he explained.

“This is a welcome first step in what will hopefully see a more localised approach to front-line health services.

“I hope it can help in some way to alleviate the pressures facing GP surgeries and tackle the ever-present issue of waiting lists.”

But he said he did not want the initiative to stop here, arguing that it could be extended into Newry and Armagh and right across Northern Ireland.

Mr McNulty added: “Investment in this area has been long overdue and hopefully by identifying opportunities for early intervention, we can better assess the needs of patients and provide more specialised care in the field of mental health and wellbeing, as well as physical health.

“This region is in desperate need of a specialised healthcare team who can be the first port of call for those seeking help, particularly those suffering with poor mental health.

“I would hope that this new proposal can help tackle long waiting times and provide support and guidance to patients who cannot afford to wait.

“I have constantly raised the need for more specialised resources to ensure better accessibility to existing services.

“Whilst this a step in the right direction, it remains just one step of many needed in the journey of transformation for the Department of Health.

“A lack of workforce planning and short-sighted decisions over the years has left our health service on its knees and it would be irresponsible to believe that this small package will solve the array of problems.

“We have witnessed the impact the lack of workforce planning has had on our own Emergency Department in Daisy Hill and in services in the community.

“I acknowledge that this is a long term task. But to successfully tackle the challenges we face here we need to plan adequately now.

“A sticking plaster approach will not work; we need a much more robust, ambitious plan for our health service. To do that, we need politicians to step up. The future of our patients and health service cannot wait.”

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