GPs are being trained to carry out vasectomies which normally take place in hospitals.
Approximately 1700 men are currently waiting for a vasectomy, a surgical procedure to cut or seal the tubes that carry a man’s sperm in order to permanently prevent pregnancy. Routine waiting times are currently in excess of two years.
The new service will greatly reduce the need for men to access services within secondary care and thus reduce the current hospital surgical waiting lists.
The initiative is the culmination of co-design and implementation of primary care alternatives to hospital referrals and a key aspect of the elective care transformation work GP Federations are taking forward, in conjunction with the Health and Social Care Board and Public Health Agency (PHA).
The new GP-led service will see family doctors trained by specialist GP colleagues from the UK, in the non-scalpel vasectomy procedure.
To date 15 GPs have completed their training and it is anticipated that the new service will start to be rolled out across Northern Ireland in early summer.
Initially between 1,000 and 1,500 non-scalpel vasectomy procedures will be commissioned from early summer until the end of March 2019.
Dr Gordon Geary, based in Portadown, was the first Northern Ireland GP trained by UK colleagues to carry out vasectomies. He explained the initiative further.
“This is a new scheme in Northern Ireland, but GPs in other parts of the United Kingdom, the United States and Australia having been carrying out vasectomies as a matter of routine for many years.
“Currently patients are referred to secondary care where they will need a surgical theatre, a team of staff and the procedure itself is done using a scalpel.
“Under the new scheme the procedure will be conducted in a GP practice, under local anaesthetic, using a minimally invasive method via a tiny puncture hole.
“It is less painful, there is less bleeding, it’s safer and recovery time is quicker, ” he said.
Belfast-based GP, Dr Joe Dugan, who is also trained to carry out vasectomies, explained that current demand for secondary care vasectomies is approximately 2,500 per annum across the HSC.
“The new primary care initiative will see us taking new referrals from GPs, with procedures provided by GPs in their practices. Three GPs have been trained in each Trust area and as part of our continuing education of the service, we plan to become trainers for those who wish to upskill in this area,” he said.
Dr Margaret O’Brien, Health and Social Care Board’s head of general practice, who is clinical lead for the initiative, said: “As well as training GPs to carry out this procedure, we will establish formal knowledge networks, training forums with NIMDTA (Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency) and peer support for GPs which will compliment this primary care elective care transformation agenda.”