Coronavirus – impact to health and social care services in Northern Ireland
This page provides information and useful links to advice and guidance on Health and Social Care service provision during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
As a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, a number of changes have been made to the way many health and social care services are delivered to meet social distancing regulations and to prevent the spread of infection. This includes GPs, community pharmacies, dentists and opticians.
General information on services
The majority of GP surgeries are no longer accepting walk–in patients. To help reduce the spread of infection, please:
- Ring the GP surgery first
- You will be asked some questions by surgery staff to determine your condition. Some of these questions may include if you have a temperature or a cough.
- If appropriate, you may receive a call back from a GP or be given other relevant advice.
- If you need a repeat prescription, some surgeries provide a separate phone number or an online ordering facility. Please check your own GP surgery’s website for details. See the graphic below for how long you should allow to order repeat prescriptions.
Some GP surgeries are experiencing a high volume of calls, so you may need to be patient and wait for your call to be put through.
GP COVID Centres
These centres are staffed by GPs, nurses and other support staff to treat patients who have tested positive for or are suspected of having Coronavirus (COVID-19) in the community. Patients have to be referred to these centres by their own GP or by GP Out of Hours.
Like many other health services, community pharmacies are experiencing higher demand than usual for their services and are also required to comply with government guidance on social distancing.
- Most pharmacies now limit the numbers of customers in stores at one time, so customers should expect to queue.
- Most pharmacies are open during normal opening hours with the exception of lunchtime. It is expected that this will be generally 1pm to 2pm for most pharmacies. The closure of one hour to allow time for shelves to be re-stocked
- Please allow extra time, up to 72 hours for some pharmacies to prepare repeat prescriptions.
- If you are unwell, please do not come into the pharmacy. You can ask a friend or relative to pick this up instead.
- The process for repeat prescriptions is changing for many GPs and community pharmacies, see the graphic for further information.
- A volunteer service to support prescription deliveries for pharmacy customers is being set up.
Dental practices are particularly impacted by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Most dental procedures are aerosol-generating, which means they release airborne particles which can result in the spread of infection.
All dental practices have been told to stop providing these procedures during the pandemic. If you experience a dental problem, please:
- Call your dentist first.
- The dentist or staff in the dental practice will ask you some questions over the phone to assess your condition. Some of these questions may include if you have a temperature or a cough.
- If appropriate, you may receive a call back from a dentist, be given relevant advice, issued with a prescription or asked to come into the practice.
If you have been tested positive for Coronavirus (COVID-19) or have symptoms such as a high temperature and a new, continuous cough, and you need dental treatment, please call your dentist first.
Urgent Dental Care clinics
This service is for people with an urgent dental need such as significant oral swellings, dental trauma and uncontrolled bleeding following extraction. These clinics will also treat Coronavirus (COVID-19) patients and those patients who have no symptoms and need urgent dental care.
Patients must be referred by their dentist. If you have an urgent or emergency dental problem:
- Call your dentist first. If you are not registered with a dentist, call a dentist for advice.
- Your dentist will speak to you over the phone and refer you to the emergency dental clinic if required.
Update (18 June 2020): We are working a phased return of dental services. For more information about the phased return of dental services click here.
In the video below your most frequently asked questions about dental services are answered by some of the clinical leads of the Urgent Dental Care Clinics.
Optometry practices are not currently providing routine eye examinations and have restricted opening days and hours but are continuing to provide urgent and essential eye care.
If you have any concerns about your eyes, including an urgent eye problem, or a query about your glasses or contact lenses, please telephone your optometry practice first.
- The optometrist or staff in the optometry practice will ask you some questions over the phone to determine your eye problem. Some of these questions may include if you have a temperature or a cough.
- If necessary, the optometrist may call you back for a more detailed consultation and advice about your eye condition or arrange for you to come to the practice for an eye examination.
- If the problem is related to your glasses or contact lenses, the practice can arrange to repair your glasses or give you a temporary new pair of glasses and post your glasses or contact lenses to you.
- If you have an urgent eye problem e.g. a red eye, painful eye, sudden change in vision, or something in your eye that you can’t remove, please contact your optometry practice first by telephone, rather than your GP practice or community pharmacy.
Update (18 June 2020): We are working a phased return of optometry services. For more information about the phased return of optometry services click here.
If you have an emergency eye condition, such as severe injury, you should go directly and immediately to your local Accident and Emergency department .
Service updates within each Health and Social Care Trust
Belfast HSC Trust
Northern HSC Trust
South Eastern HSC Trust
Southern HSC Trust
Western HSC Trust
Northern Ireland Ambulance Service