GPC Northern Ireland warns new health minister must save general practice

Northern Ireland's GP leader will today warn the incoming health minister that swift action is needed to save general practice, as the country's snap general election draws to a close.

GPC Northern Ireland chairman Dr Tom Black (Photo: JH Lancy)
GPC Northern Ireland chairman Dr Tom Black (Photo: JH Lancy)

GPC Northern Ireland (NIGPC) chair Dr Tom Black will warn at the 2017 LMCs conference in Belfast on Saturday that general practice in Northern Ireland is facing a 'perfect storm', with the highest GP workload in the UK, the smallest workforce and the lowest funding per patient.

'This is a recipe for collapse,' Dr Black will warn. 'We met with the department of health recently and asked for funding and implementation of the GP-led review plan, but apparently there is no executive, no budget and no funding to do this.'

The NIGPC chair will tell the conference that GP leaders asked for a 2017/18 contract settlement 'in the interim', which he says would amount to a 'rescue plan for general practice'. 'But we left those negotiations empty handed,' Dr Black will warn.

GP crisis

Dr Black's speech will open a Northern Ireland LMCs conference that will hear calls for the profession to push ahead with plans to gather undated contract resignations from practices across the country.

Once 60% of practices have submitted undated contract resignations, GPs across Northern Ireland will quit the NHS en masse. Dr Black has previously told GPonline that mass resignation is now the only way to save general practice in Northern Ireland, in a move that could see GPs delivering services on a fee-per-service model similar to the Republic of Ireland model.

Dr Black will challenge the incoming health minister to show whether they want to 'work with us, or work against us'. 'Your choice,' he will say, 'but be clear - we will protect the GP service for patients in Northern Ireland even if it means leaving the NHS.'

He will say that the failure to prioritise general practice in Northern Ireland to date has left the profession with 'no alternative but to progress with collecting undated practice resignations.

GP funding

But he will highlight that the incoming health minister and the department of health 'have the power to save general practice' by implementing NHS reforms outlined in recent health and social care plans.

Proposals in a recent 10-year plan for Northern Ireland's health service by Professor Rafael Bengoa - including plans to boost primary care investment and GP recruitment and retention 'need decisions and action' Dr Black will say.

Conference chair Dr Francis O'Hagan said: 'This time last year, we warned that the collapse of general practice would happen without significant investment from the department of health, and here we are a year later facing collapse across all counties.

'The department has the power to act to stop this from happening. I urge them to act now before it's too late.'

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