RCGPNI calls for an urgent and collective approach to tackling waiting lists

Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in Northern Ireland, Dr Laurence Dorman says action is urgently required to tackle waiting lists and calls for more support for GPs who are caring for patients caught in the backlog.

Dr Laurence Dorman commented:

"For too long, hospital waiting lists have been allowed to endlessly grow with not enough consideration for the pain and suffering of the patients languishing on them, often for many years. The waiting list statistics are startling, but behind these numbers are people with lives, and livelihoods put on hold.

"When placed on a hospital waiting list for either assessment or operation, a patient and their story does not disappear. They remain under the care of their GP and this additional workload is significantly hampering access to our service for all our patients.

"We need a modern and sustainable health service that delivers for patients. Innovative solutions must be found to support existing and new structures to ensure that patients have timely access to the services they need. We welcome any increased financial allocation to support this and are ready and willing to play our part, but we must be part of the conversation as care continues to move out of the hospitals and into the community.

"Historically, solutions to address waiting lists have focused on additional spending going either to increasing hospital capacity or to private providers, neither of which rectify the problems in the system that resulted in these unacceptable waits.

"The pandemic has highlighted that our health service is a delicate ecosystem, where stresses in one area will be felt in another. The best outcomes for patient health come when all parts of the system work seamlessly together, so the vital role of general practice must be considered when any new investment is proposed.

"The introduction of new systems to address patient flow through hospital is most welcome, and GPs on the ground have been supporting these.  However, if unmanaged, this approach risks destabilising the workforce in our practices, with worsening access for patients in the long term.

"Transformative investment must not just focus on hospitals but consider our health service as a whole, including general practice which urgently requires assistance and investment to deliver the service our patients deserve.

"Throughout the pandemic, general practice has continued to provide care and support to our patients as well as delivering almost half of the COVID-19 vaccines, but our service is struggling. We need significant investment to strengthen our workforce numbers and improve our premises if we are to be able to increase our capacity to support additional services and new ways of working to alleviate pressures.”

Further information

Please contact Cliona McCarney, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at RCGPNI on 07341 737033.

Notes to editor

The Royal College of General Practitioners is a network of more than 52,000 family doctors working to improve care for patients. We work to encourage and maintain the highest standards of general medical practice and act as the voice of GPs on education, training, research and clinical standards.