History Of The Practice

The practice started on the Donegal Road in the early 1930s in the home of a Dr Clarke. In the mid 1940s Dr Sidney Matthews became the principal, to be followed in 1952 by Dr George Irwin. The centre of the practice by this time had moved to Lisburn Road. There was also a branch surgery at Dr Irwin’s home at Finaghy.

In 1955 Dr Irwin joined in practice with Dr Maurice Bamber, also working from his own home at Finaghy. Dr William Rowney became a partner in 1963 and Dr Desmond Price in 1969. Finaghy Health Centre was opened in 1965, the first purpose-built health centre in Northern Ireland. Dunluce Health Centre opened in 1980.

Dr George Irwin had, in 1971, been appointed the first Professor of General Practice at Queens University and the practice has since retained close links with the University at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. It has long been involved in the training of young doctors aspiring to a future in general practice.

The practice has continued to grow in size and consequently new partners have joined: Dr Alan G H Irwin in 1978, Dr Eileen McAuley in 1984, Dr Jean White in 1985, Dr Alan W Irwin in 1990, Dr James Rowney in 1993, Drs Maria Monaghan and Susan Yarr in 1996 and Dr Scott McIver in 1999, Dr Angela Dallas in 2006 and most recently Dr John Connolly in April 2007. Professor Irwin and Drs Bamber, Price, William Rowney and Jean White have since retired.

Hours Of Opening

The health centres is open daily 8.30am – 6.00pm Monday to Friday.

Consultations are by appointment at the following times:
Mornings 8.30 – 11.30am Afternoons from 2.00pm onwards


Ours is a group practice where the workload is shared by the doctors available on any given day. It is preferable that patients and doctors get to know each other well. However, there may not be a vacant appointment with the doctor of your choice on the day requested. In that event you will be offered the first available appointment with one of the other doctors. For urgent consultations or children, every effort will be made to see the patient on the same day.
PLEASE Make a separate appointment for each person to be seen.

  • Inform the receptionist if you want a longer than usual appointment for additional discussion or a special medical.
  • Notify reception if you are unable to keep an appointment. Every month, on average, 60 appointments are wasted by patients
  • Not telephoning to cancel; please make sure you contact us if you no longer need your surgery appointment.
  • If making an appointment with a doctor for a procedure to be performed in the treatment room (eg cervical smear)

Please inform the receptionist when making the appointment.

How To Register

Please bring along your medical card, photographic ID and proof of address to the surgery where you will be asked to complete a simple questionnaire and invited to attend for a ‘New Patient Medical’. This enables us to meet you and assess your medical needs. If you do not hold a valid medical card please ask at Reception for the necessary forms. Please note you can choose to attend any of the doctors in the partnership, not necessarily the one you are registered with. You will attend the treatment room nurse for this new patient check for which an appointment is needed.

Consultation Times

Finaghy Health Centre
Morning surgery: 8.30 – 11.00am
Afternoons: 2.00 – 5.30pm

Telephone Consultations / Advice

Doctors are available everyday for telephone advice. Please telephone 9020 4445 before 11am leaving a brief message and contact telephone number with the receptionist. A doctor will return your call.
Advice calls will not be taken after 11am.

Home Visits

It is possible to see several patients in the surgery with good diagnostic facilities in the time taken to do one home visit. We ask that you come to the surgery if at all possible. However, if you are too ill to come to the surgery then you will be seen at home.

To Request A Home Visit
If possible, ring your health centre (8.30 – 10.30am). Be ready to give the name and address of the patient, their health centre number and a brief description of their symptoms. This allows the most serious problems to be dealt with first.
If an emergency requiring a home visit occurs after 10.30am and before 6.00pm, please ring your health centre and the practice doctor on call will attend you.

Emergencies after 6.00PM and during weekends and holidays
Patients requiring URGENT MEDICAL ATTENTION should phone the Out-of-Hours Doctors Service on 9079 6220. They will put you in contact with the doctor on duty.

Out-of-hours visits are at the discretion of the doctor. After talking to the patient the doctor may be able to give satisfactory advice. On the other hand, the patient may be asked to visit an emergency centre. However, if the doctor feels it necessary, a home visit will be done.

Results Of Tests

Treatment Room Tests
To obtain results of tests carried out in the treatment room:
Please phone 9020 4447 between 9.00am – 11.00am,  
Results are given by treatment room staff – your doctor will have first seen the result and left an appropriate message for you. If making an appointment to discuss hospital letters or investigations, please allow at least three weeks for us to have received the hospital letter (it may be worthwhile checking with our reception staff that we have received the report before making the appointment).

Repeat Prescriptions

You may request a repeat prescription either in writing, by telephone or by using our on-line ordering service which you can register for at Reception. If you require the prescription posted please enclose a stamped, addressed envelope. Your prescription will be ready in 24 hours unless you are advised otherwise.

Please phone 9020 4446 to request a prescription. This is a 24hr answering machine on which you may leave your request. However, should you need to speak to someone regarding your order, they are available at this number between 11.00am – 12noon only.

Health Checks

If you are aged between 16 and 75 and have not seen your doctor in over three years, you may wish to come along for a check-up. We also have a practice nurse who holds specialised clinics for us in areas such as Asthma, Diabetes, COPD, Weight Management etc. From time to time we may invite you to attend one of these clinics and as such would encourage you to make good use of this service.

If you are aged 75 or over and have not seen your doctor in over one year, you may wish to come along for a check-up. Please contact reception should you wish to make an appointment.

Sickness Certificates

You do not require a doctor’s sickness certificate for any illness lasting seven days or less. Your employer may, however, require you to complete a self-certification form. These can be obtained from your employer or from the health center reception. For any illness lasting longer than seven days you will need to see the doctor for a sickness certificate.

Non-NHS Services

Patients should be aware that fees may be charged for services not covered by the NHS contract. These include private certificates, reports supporting private health insurance claims and other non-NHS medical reports. Medical reports and examinations for insurance companies are usually paid for by the insurance company concerned.

Fees may be charged for examinations for other special purposes such as, for example, HGV and PSV licences, elderly drivers, fitness to drive, fitness to travel, fitness to undertake certain sports and pre-employment medicals. The fee scale is recommended by the BMA and details are available from the receptionists.

General Information

Access For The Disabled

The practice premises comply with the Disability Discrimination Act to promote equality of access for all patients.


There is parking for the disabled at the health centre. Parking for others within the health centre grounds is limited but this is available in nearby streets.

Medical Students

As a ‘Quality Practice’ we are committed to the training of medical students who wish to gain experience in the field of general practice. Very infrequently you may be asked to allow a student to interview you. You have the right to refuse, but we hope you will help the next generation of doctors by your compliance.


We ask you for personal information so that you can receive appropriate care and treatment. This information is recorded on computer and we are registered under the Data Protection Act. The practice will ensure that patient confidentiality is maintained at all times by all members of the practice team.

However, for the effective functioning of a multi-disciplinary team it is sometimes necessary that medical information about you is shared between members of the team. Prescriptions and some of the consultation records are run purely on computer. This enables us to analyse various aspects of health care and to produce an annual practice report.

Change Of Personal Details

Please advise reception if you change your name, address or telephone number. It would be a great help if you would also ensure that we have your telephone number and your postcode. Please remember that we do have a Practice Boundary and a change of address could place you outside of this in which case Business Services Organisation will advise you to register with a doctor closer to your new address.

Freedom Of Information

The Freedom of Information Act 2000 obliges the practice to produce a Publication Scheme. A Publication Scheme is a guide to the ‘classes’ of information the practice intends to routinely make available.

Medical Examinations

Medical examinations for special purposes, such as fitness to travel, pre-employment, insurance, driving medicals etc are undertaken outside normal surgery hours. A fee will be payable. Please contact the surgery to make an appointment. Fees are clearly displayed in the reception area.

Staff Protection

A zero tolerance policy towards violent, threatening and abusive behaviour is now in place throughout the National Health Service.

The staff in this practice have the right to do their work in an environment free from violent, threatening and abusive behaviour and everything will be done to protect that right.
At no time will any violent, threatening or abusive behaviour be tolerated in this practice. If you not respect the rights of our staff we may choose to inform the police and make arrangements for you to be removed from our medical list.

What to do in time of Bereavement

What To Do If Someone Dies? 
It is a legal requirement for a doctor to confirm that someone has passed away. There is no need to move the patient. If a doctor has recently seen the patient, a death certificate can normally be issued. However, in the event of an unexpected death, the doctor will need to notify the coroner.

If Death Occurs At Home 

  1. Telephone the doctor. They will visit to confirm death has taken place.
  2. Contact the funeral director to inform them that their services will be required.
  3. Collect the doctor’s certificate from the surgery. This will not be possible if it is necessary to inform the coroner.

If Death Occurs In Hospital

  1. Contact the funeral director to inform them that their services will be required.
  2. Collect the doctor’s certificate from the hospital. Then…
  3. Take the death certificate to the registrar’s office for the area in which the death took place. You will need to take the deceased’s medical card if available.
  4. Take the green form to the funeral directors who will take over complete responsibility for arranging the funeral.

Suggestions – Complaints Procedure

We are committed to good patient care and to maintaining the best possible relations with our patients at all times, However, we do accept that from time to time patients may be dissatisfied with the service within the practice and to that end we operate a practice complaints procedure as part of the NHS system for dealing with complaints.

How To Complain
Complaints should be addressed to the practice manager as soon as possible. The complaints procedure will be explained to you and your complaint will be dealt with promptly.
We are very happy to receive constructive comments and suggestions for improving our service to patients.

If you require assistance with your complaint you can approach the HSCB who will act as an honest broker in helping you move forward with your complaint. The contact for this at Belfast Health & Social Care Board is Mr Michael Cruikshanks, Tel No 028 90321313.

Self Treatment Of Common Illnesses And Accidents

Many common illnesses, aches and pains can be simply treated at home without the need to consult your doctor.

Back Pain
It is advisable to consult your doctor if back pain persists for more than a few days. Initially be sensible and take things easy. It may be necessary to rest horizontally to take weight off the back or to take extra care to sit as upright as possible, with support for the small of the back. Take paracetamol or aspirin; this will relieve the pain and also help to relieve inflammation. If matters do not improve, your doctor may well prescribe stronger drugs, heat treatment, gentle exercise or further measures.

These are caused by prolonged pressure to certain parts of the body when lying in bed for long periods. They are best prevented by encouraging the patient to shift position as often as possible and taking care to smooth out the creases in the bottom sheet, which could lead to localised irritation. Keep your eye open for red marks appearing at pressure points such as heels, elbows, buttocks and hips. If they begin to appear inform your doctor or district nurse, before they get worse.

Apply large quantities of cold water to the affected area as soon as possible and maintain this until the pain subsides. This may take as long as 20 minutes. If the skin is unbroken but blistered apply a loose dry dressing. If the burn is large or if the skin is broken, consult your doctor.

On the first day a rash appears as small red patches. Within a few hours of these developing, small blisters appear in the centre of these patches. During the next three to four days further patches occur and the earlier ones turn crusty and fall off. Calamine lotion may be applied to soothe the often severe itching. Cool baths may also help. The most infectious period is from two to three days before the rash appears and up to five days after. Children may return to school as soon as the last crusts have fallen off.

There is no magic cure for the common cold. Go to bed and take plenty of drinks. If you have a headache or are feverish, take aspirin (if over the age of 16) or paracetamol. Antibiotics will not help unless you happen to have a secondary bacterial infection.

Dry coughs usually cure themselves and can be eased by medicine from the chemist. Children with colds often cough at night and this may be eased by propping them up with a pillow.
Decongestant measures may help.

Diarrhoea And Vomiting
Usually due to a viral infection or a sudden change of diet. The best treatment is to rest, eat nothing and drink clear fluids such as Dioralyte. It is unwise to take ‘over the counter’ preparations, as these may prolong the illness. Young children and babies need careful attention and advice should be sought from your doctor.

This can often be helped by paracetamol and measures to decongest (including steam and inhalations like Karvol). Children with persistent earache should see a doctor the next day.

Irritated Eyes
Small pieces of grit or dirt in the eye are best washed out with plenty of water. Try to avoid rubbing the eye as this will make things worse. If the eye is still sore after this, then medical help may be necessary.

Cooling down hot children will make them feel better.

  1. Give paracetamol suspension (Calpol or Disprol) regularly four times daily.
  2. Strip the child down to light underwear and bathe with a tepid sponge if still hot
  3. Plenty of fluids by mouth will help replace the fluid lost by sweating.

Head Lice
Regular application of hair conditioner and fine tooth combing the hair is the best prevention.

A viral illness, this is common in winter. High temperature, aching muscles and fatigue can last several days. Rest, plenty of clear fluids and regular aspirin and paracetamol are usually all that is needed. If you have another medical problem (diabetes, heart disease or chest trouble) it would be wise to seek medical advice. We have an active campaign of influenza immunisation that usually starts each October. Ask at reception if you would like to be immunised.

Insect Bites and Stings
Antihistamine tablets can be obtained from the chemist without prescription and will usually relieve most symptoms.

The rash is blotchy and red and appears on the face and body around the fourth day of illness. It is at its most infectious from two or three days before the rash appears until eight or ten days after that date. It is therefore important that all contacts are informed in order that anyone who may be pregnant can contact their doctor.

Minor Grazes
Wash the wound thoroughly with water and a little soap. To stop bleeding apply a clean handkerchief or dressing to the wound for about five minutes. Cover with a clean, dry dressing.

The symptoms are swelling of the glands in front of one ear, often followed, after a couple of days, by swelling in front of the other ear. It is infectious from two or three days before the swelling appears until eight or ten days after that date. If the pain is severe you should consult your doctor.
Vaccination against measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) is offered to children and susceptible adults.

Sit in a chair, leaning forward with your mouth open and pinch your nose just below the bone for approximately 30 minutes, by which time the bleeding should have stopped. Avoid hot drinks or hot food for 24 hours. If symptoms persist consult your doctor.

Sore Throat
Almost always caused by a virus, antibiotics therefore have no place in the treatment. Generally a sore throat lasts two to five days. The best treatment for adults is to gargle with soluble aspirin and then swallow it, four times daily. Remember that children under 16 should not be given aspirin. Plenty of cold drinks and paracetamol regularly will help.

Firstly apply a cold compress, containing ice if possible, for up to 30 minutes to reduce the swelling. Apply a crepe bandage and give the sprain plenty of rest until all discomfort has subsided. Further strain will inevitably lead to further swelling and a longer recovery period. If matters do not improve after a few days, consult your doctor as he may wish to refer you for sports physiotherapy.

Most attacks are not serious and are usually caused by indigestion or wind. A hot water bottle will often relieve the symptoms and, in the case of indigestion, a teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda in half a glass of water will help. If the pain lasts longer than six to eight hours, or increases in intensity, you should consult your doctor.


Treat as for other burns with cold water and remove the heat. Calamine lotion will help to relieve the irritation whilst paracetamol will also help. Children are particularly susceptible to sunburn and great care should be taken to ensure sufficient protection is taken.

The Practice are currently experiencing an extremely high volume of calls as they deal with unprecedented demand on their service.

You can help with this by choosing an appropriate time and means to contact the Practice for your query i.e. use the answerphone or online service for script orders, only phone for results between 3-4.30 pm and choose a later time in the day to phone the practice for any general enquiries.

Your Practice team are dealing with a workload which far outstrips capacity, please be understanding of the daily challenges which they face to deliver services to you.