£1bn DUP deal with Tories must deliver new GP funding, warns BMA

Doctors' leaders in Northern Ireland want to meet health officials to agree a rescue package for general practice after the UK government agreed a £1bn public spending deal with the DUP on Monday.

Stormont: £1bn deal for DUP support (Photo: iStock)
Stormont: £1bn deal for DUP support (Photo: iStock)

The government and DUP revealed a £1bn deal to fund health, education and infrastructure for the region, as well as increased flexibility for £500m previously committed, in return for confidence and supply support from the unionists for the Conservative minority administration.

Under the deal the government agreed to allocate an additional £50m a year for two years for the Northern Ireland executive to address immediate pressures in health and education. An extra £100m per year for two years will be allocated for ‘health service transformation’.

The funding is dependent on the DUP supporting the Tory government.

According to The Guardian, the new funding could be spent by Northern Ireland government officials or UK ministers if there is no agreement by Thursday's deadline to restore the power-sharing executive.

GP crisis

Northern Ireland BMA chair Dr John Woods said the union welcomed the additional funding. But, he added, it must be spent addressing the problems the service faces.

‘The crisis in general practice has been well documented and the BMA has made it clear that a rescue package is needed now,' Dr Woods said. ‘We also need to take steps now to address the growing shortage of doctors across Northern Ireland in order to meet population needs.

He added: ‘We need to see this money being used in a strategic way, not merely to address waiting lists. The money needs to be used to support genuine system and service transformation, as set out in the Bengoa review. This includes developing effective systems for elective and urgent care.’

Northern Ireland GPC (NIGPC) chair Dr Tom Black said: 'We need two things done in health service: transformation along the lines of the Bengoa Review and funding in community care, so more GP, district nurses and mental health services. The big concern is that the health department will repeat the mistakes of the past and invest this money in short-term fixes in the private sector for the very long waiting lists we have.'

NHS funding

The BMA said it would seek a meeting with the DoH to set out its ideas on how the funding should be spent.

GPonline reported earlier this month that GP leaders were seeking to urge the DUP to press for additional funding for GP services.

NIGPC last week agreed a plan for practices unilaterally to cut non-core work in response to the ongoing funding, workload and workforce crisis.

GP leaders are already co-ordinating the collection of undated contract resignations in preparation for practices to leave the NHS in response to the funding, workload and workforce crises. GP leaders have been preparing to meet political parties to push for implementation and funding for a reform package agreed by the last executive in December, before it collapsed.

NIGPC is demanding investment of 10% of the healthcare budget in GP services, training and recruitment of more GPs and a reduction in bureaucracy and IT improvements.

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