‘Worried well’ eating into time required for the genuinely sick: Dr Tom Black

Londonderry doctor Tom Black has warned that the ‘worried well’ are consuming more and more of GPs’ time and eating into the time required to see genuinely sick people.

Dr Black, who is Chair of the British Medical Association’s (BMA) Northern Ireland GP Committee, believes the NHS system if the “fairest, most efficient and most effective way of looking after our community” but warned that it needs to be used responsibly.

Using a platform in the Sunday Business Post on February 23, Dr Black warned that: “GPs spend so much time looking after the ‘worried well’ and their demands that it means there is less time to see sick patients with greater needs.”

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He suggested that in his experience patients originally from Donegal, who were used to paying for health care in the Republic of Ireland, generally made for more responsible service users.

He wrote: “So, is it possible to provide a free GP service and manage demand? As a GP working in a border area in Derry, I have a lot of patients who originally lived in Donegal and paid for their GP.

“They live in Derry now, hugely appreciate the free service and use the service infrequently - initially, at least.

“Local habits are soon adopted, however.”

Dr Black suggested that a ‘cost hurdle’ might be employed to discourage an unnecessary burden on local practices.

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“How do you limit access to a service, which people really value, and where public knowledge and experience is limited so that failure to access a service could carry a risk to your health?” he asked.

“People usually limit access to any good or service due to cost, and will make a judgement based on knowledge, experience and advice from friends.

“Without a cost hurdle in health care and with limited knowledge, public demand escalates,” he explained.