97% of GPs in Belfast willing to sign undated resignations in GPC ballot

Practically all of the GPs attending a crisis meeting held by Northern Ireland GPC in Belfast last night said they would be willing to sign undated resignation letters to force the government to invest in general practice.

Northern Ireland GPC chairman Dr Tom Black
Northern Ireland GPC chairman Dr Tom Black

Over 200 GPs from the surrounding area attended the meeting, of which 97% agreed they would be willing to sign undated resignations to ‘prevent the complete collapse of general practice across the country’.

The crisis meeting was the first of five to be held across Northern Ireland in the coming weeks to ascertain GPs' willingness to withdraw services unless the government takes steps to address the problems facing the profession.

GPC Northern Ireland confirmed in September that it would ask the profession to consider mass resignation.

The decision follows a motion approved at the UK LMCs conference in March. The GPC in England scrapped plans for a similar ballot after NHS England agreed to accept its demands ‘as the basis for further discussion’.

Collapse of general practice

The Northern Ireland GPC has called on minister for health Michelle O’Neill to commit to increasing GP funding to at least 10% of the Northern Ireland healthcare budget, as has already been pledged in England and Scotland.

The funding boost is needed to make general practice safe and sustainable, fund the training of more GPs, reduce bureaucracy and improve IT systems, the Northern Ireland GPC said.

General practice will ‘collapse across the country’ if these urgent rescue measures are not made, it warned.

Northern Ireland GPC chairman Dr Tom Black said: ‘We obviously knew things were bad in general practice but we didn’t realise things were that bad.  The turnout tonight shows how much pressure we are under.

‘What we have heard tonight are the very issues we have been flagging up in general practice for many months now and unfortunately it looks like it’s crunch time.

‘While there were some positive announcements by Minister O’Neill today [25 October 2016] as part of her Health and Wellbeing plans, until we have greater clarity about the funding for these initiatives we need to move forward with our own plans.’

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