GPC warns NHS shakeup could destabilise general practice in Northern Ireland

General practice in Northern Ireland risks becoming 'destabilised' if shifting workload from secondary to primary care is not properly funded, the Northern Ireland GPC has warned.

Dr Black: ‘In Northern Ireland we have 20% more hospital beds than in England, a 25% lower through-put and 28% longer stays.'
Dr Black: ‘In Northern Ireland we have 20% more hospital beds than in England, a 25% lower through-put and 28% longer stays.'

On Tuesday, the Northern Irish government will publish the Compton review of health and social care in Northern Ireland. 

Northern Ireland GPC chairman Dr Tom Black said he expected the review to call for a shift of work from secondary to primary care. He said other GPs shared his concerns about a lack of funding for such work.

'GPs are concerned that the work will be shifted but the resource won't follow,' he said. 'They are very concerned that primary care will be destabilised.'

The workload shift will mean that GPs should start thinking about how they can provide additional services such as cardiology within their practices, Dr Black said.

The existing commissioning system and primary care partnerships will also need to expand to manage the increase in general practice workload, all of which will require extra funding, Dr Black said.

Dr Black will meet with health minister Edwin Poots and DH officials next week and said he would stress to them the importance of funding work shifted into general practice. ‘If the work shifts without resource, its going to destabilise general practice,’ he warned.

He said he was confident that the government would be receptive to his argument. ‘I think there’s a recognition that they don’t want to destroy the good primary care that they have (in Northern Ireland),’ he said.

Dr Black added that most of the productivity savings required in Northern Ireland would need to be made in hospitals, not in general practice. ‘In Northern Ireland we have 20% more hospital beds than in England, a 25% lower through-put and 28% longer stays.'

He believes that, as long as general practice continues to work efficiently, it will be saved from the major upheaval expected to affect hospitals following the Compton review.

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