Under sixes will impact capacity during clinical winter – especially as holiday season approaches

Under sixes will impact capacity during clinical winter – especially as holiday season approaches.

Presentations in the D-Doc out of hours service for children under six has increased by 25 % year on year to the end of October 2016. However, this does not really demonstrate the effect the under six presentations have, especially during holiday weekends are indeed Christmas and New Year.   The October bank holiday was 38 % ahead on Under Six presentations when compared with 2014 before the scheme was introduced.

Last January there was a lot of media coverage regarding the effects the under sixes were having throughout the health service. Paul Cullen, reporting in the Irish Times said that hospitals had seen a sharp increase in referrals since the introduction of free GP care for under sixes. In Cork emergency medicine consultant Dr Chris Luke said that he had seen a substantial increase in attendances among young children since the scheme was introduced and also said that local GPs in the south had seen up to a 60% increase in young children attending local GP Co-op’s.

In D-Doc in North Dublin, under sixes now represents about 1/3 of all presentations in out of hours. If trends continue, there will be considerable pressure on both A & E and the North Dublin D-Doc GP out of hours service.

Dr Mel Bates, medical director, said that “A 25% increase over the full year to date would indicate that we may expect another spike over the Christmas period. We will be under severe pressure to manage. We have, as ever, more doctors in place during the busy holiday period but we have a finite source or GPs and appointments, and capacity is likely to be reached. That will bring a real challenge both to ourselves and our colleagues in A&E.”