Press Release

Important project to improve access to GP out of hours services in border areas

The Tánaiste and Minister for Health and Children, Mary Harney TD, today welcomed plans to improve access to general practitioner out of hours services for people who live in our border areas.

Work has been underway over the last year under the auspices of CAWT (Co-Operation and Working Together) to introduce Cross-Border co-operation in the area of GP Out of Hours services. INTERREG funding has been obtained. CAWT involves staff from the Health Service Executive and the health and social service delivery agencies in Northern Ireland.

The key factors in favour of this service are:

  • Approximately 65,000 people across the border area live closer to a GP Out of Hours Centre in the other jurisdiction.
  • 70% of this population live in areas that can be classed as socially deprived
  • If the patients involved were free to travel across the border to see a GP for urgent out of hours treatment, then the travel distance could be considerably reduced.

A feasibility study has recommended the setting up of two pilot areas, each with populations of approximately 13,000 along the border, one where patients in the Republic will have access to a centre in Northern Ireland and one where patients in Northern Ireland will have access to a centre in the Republic.

The respective Government Health Departments – the Department of Health and Children and the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety have met with the CAWT team to ensure that any measures needed at Government level to enable the service begin are addressed and resolved.

It is planned that the service will commence later this year in the pilot areas. Phase 1 of the project will involve people from the Inishowen area of Donegal being able to access the GP out of hours service in Derry. Phase 2 is planned to afford people from the Keady area of Armagh access to the out of service in Castleblayney. The experience in the pilot areas will inform further expansion of the service.