Concerns are being raised about the future of an urgent out-of-hours GP service in the North East.

The North East Doctor on Call service has warned that it will be unable to continue this weekend, if new funding measures are not put in place by the HSE. 

It says that up to 70% of its calls are now dealt with by doctor triage, a huge turnaround in the way the service used to do business. 

Last year NEDOC managed 89,000 patients and 63% of calls were through appointments to the treatment centres in Cavan, Castleblayney in Co Monaghan, Drogheda in Co Louth and Dunshaughlin in Co Meath. 

It says GPs are following national guidelines and providing telephone assessments to patients, to reduce the potential spread of Covid-19. 

However despite this, it claims the HSE has refused to fund the doctor triage or doctor telephone assessment in out-of-hours services. 

In a statement this evening, the HSE said it is continuing to engage with the IMO and General Practise on a range of issues including arrangements that would ensure continuity of Out of Hours services during the Covid-19 emergency. 

It said "it envisaged that the revised measures will be in place before the coming weekend". 

NEDOC runs in partnership between GPs and the HSE for Louth, Meath, Cavan and Monaghan. GPs working in the co-op are the same GPs who work in daytime practice. 

Operations Manager of NEDOC Arlene Fitzsimons said the decision risks the provision of GP care in NEDOC from this weekend onwards as there is no funding support to undertake doctor triage. 

She said NEDOC will not risk the health and wellbeing of GPs, patients and other healthcare workers by bringing patients into the centre during this time.

Ms Fitzsimons said while there seems to be some movement from the HSE that the situation may be resolved by the weekend, NEDOC must know now whether or not GPs will be supported in their efforts to advise, guide and reassure patients of the appropriate management of their illnesses.

She said given the volume of work that GPs manage, "it is extraordinary that it is taking so long to resolve this problem".