Patients at every practice across the country will be asked to sign the petition, which calls on the health minister to invest 10% of health spending in general practice, to train more GPs to save practices from closure, and to cut bureaucracy so GPs can spend more time with patients.
GPC Northern Ireland (NIGPC) chairman Dr Tom Black said the government was ‘sleepwalking towards a crisis in primary care’, while Northern Ireland's RCGP chairman warned that general practice may not exist in a decade without urgent action.
NIGPC revealed in June that 74% of practices said they were struggling and nearly 10% ‘barely coping’ because of growing patient list sizes, workforce gaps, and mounting bureaucracy.
The petition campaign will run through August to be presented to ministers when the assembly returns to work in September.
GP crisis talks
Meanwhile, RCGP Northern Ireland chairman Dr John O’Kelly held crisis talks with health minister Michelle O'Neill at Stormont on Wednesday. Dr O’Kelly told ITV News he was hopeful, but warned if there was no action from government, ‘general practice will not exist in the next decade’.
Dr Black said the majority of rural practices in the country were at ‘serious risk of closure’ because of workforce and workload issues. ‘The situation is particularly bad for smaller, single-handed and rural practices that have fewer GPs working in them and who are struggling to fill vacancies.
‘We’re calling on the public to show their support for our call for the government to urgently address the problems faced by general practice by signing our petition.’
‘This is a matter of urgency to not only rescue general practice, but to ensure that patients in Northern Ireland have a responsive, safe and sustainable general practice service that they know will be there when they need it.’
Health minister Michelle O’Neill told ITV: ‘I think we can all recognise that GPs are under significant pressure. I have committed to work with them and I think we can continue to build on some of the good initiatives we’ve had over the past number of years. We have to focus on the big picture.’