West Belfast MLA Órlaithí Flynn has called on the Department of Health to act urgently to address the crisis in GP services.
It comes after the findings of a party survey, which was conducted between 27 June and 30 August this year, found that over 55 per cent of respondents reported having a lot of difficulty contacting their GP via telephone with some respondents expressing a reluctance to discuss personal health issues with the receptionist.
The findings shows that remote appointments were easier to access then in-person appointments. Many respondents answered that it can take hours to hear back from the GP. Furthermore many identified the inability to even get through to their GP practice on the telephone as the main problem.
The majority of respondents (61.58 per cent) felt that GP surgery opening hours have posed a significant barrier to their ability to accessing services they needed.
Some respondents felt that GP surgery opening hours could be extended to help reduce waiting times and ensure direct access with a GP.
A common theme emerging throughout the survey was the lack of mental health staff
or care available in some GP surgeries.
Sinn Féin says that this emphasises the need for investment in the rollout of Multi- Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) which would not only alleviate the pressure felt by GPs but would give patients access to the various treatments they need, including
Speaking after launching the findings of her party's access to GP services survey, the West Belfast MLA said: “GP shortages are being felt in GP surgeries all over the north – that was clearly reflected in the responses to Sinn Féin’s access to GP services survey.
“Too many patients are not getting the care they need and some people phoning their local GP surgery are not getting through due to pressures on GP surgeries."
Ms Flynn added that the lack of nurses in practices, mental health professionals and physiotherapists is having a detrimental impact on GPs’ ability to properly support patients.
“The Department of Health needs more staff to meet the needs of patients in the community" she said.
“Sinn Féin is calling on the Department of Health to accelerate plans to put more mental health professionals, nurses and physiotherapists in GP Practices.
“We are also calling on the Department of Health to recruit and train additional vaccinators to work alongside GPs to alleviate the additional pressures currently being felt in GP surgeries.”