GPC Northern Ireland (NIGPC) chair Dr Tom Black said the decision was taken 'with deep regret', but warned that general practice in the country was 'on the brink' and had been left with no option. The NIGPC has demanded urgent talks with the Northern Ireland health minister to discuss the planned action.
The collapse of the Northern Ireland government, with a fresh general election set for early March, has wrecked GPC hopes of a rescue package for general practice.
Dr Black said: 'General practice is on the brink in Northern Ireland and we feel we have no alternative to proceed with collecting undated resignations from our members.
'Continued inaction to save general practice has forced us into this situation. The work of the Northern Ireland government may have stalled, but the need to provide safe and efficient healthcare to patients has not stalled. General practice is being delivered under unsustainable conditions that we can no longer tolerate.
'We have no choice but to act. While we welcomed the proposals outlined in health minister Michelle O’Neill’s Health and Wellbeing 2026 plan and the recommendations laid out in the GP-led review, momentum has now been lost. We have received no clarity about the funding for either of these initiatives or a rescue plan for general practice and we now feel we have to take action.'
The NIGPC has voted to proceed with gathering undated resignations, a move that 97% of GPs across the country polled by the BMA have voiced support for.
GPonline reported earlier this month that Dr Black believed the only way that general practice could now be saved in Northern Ireland was for GPs to quit the NHS.
A poll of readers on this website at the time found that 82% believed the option of mass resignation should be open to practices across the UK.
NIGPC has been calling for rescue measures for the past year to prevent the collapse of general practice across the country, including investment of 10% of the overall NHS budget in the service, traning and recruitment of more GPs and reductions in bureaucracy.
NIGPC warned that a rescue package agreed in principle between GP leaders and the Northern Ireland health department before Christmas had not materialised due to delays in the publication of the last monitoring round and the subsequent collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly.
'This delay, coupled with the continued deterioration in working conditions and growth in workloads for GPs, has meant that NIGPC have been left with no choice this week but to act,' it said in a statement.