GPs call for premises funding in Northern Ireland

GPs in Northern Ireland have warned that funding for premises development is vital to support plans to shift work out of hospitals into primary care.

Dr Arnie McDowell: goes without saying that GMS premises should be funded (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)
Dr Arnie McDowell: goes without saying that GMS premises should be funded (photo: Jason Heath Lancy)

Delegates at the Northern Ireland LMCs conference welcomed a government pledge to invest in new primary care infrastructure, but warned that NHS reform plans would only succeed if a freeze on premises funding for existing GMS practices was lifted.

They warned that premises funding had been frozen since 2004.

LMC representatives voted to demand ‘immediate action’ from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety (DHSSPS), to fund development of premises.

DHSSPS plans to build and develop new facilities on a ‘hub and spokes’ model as part of a reform programme dubbed Transforming Your Care (TYC).

LMC representatives called for flexibility in planning premises to respond to local needs, and for plans to relocate some practices into proposed primary care centres to be voluntary and cost neutral.

A motion debated at the conference called for equal importance to be given to the needs of patients and practices in the ‘hub and spokes’ model.

Dr Arnie McDowell of Southern LMC said what doctors had heard so far of the plans had been ‘very hub-centric’ and warned against neglecting spoke practices. Dr Jimmy Courtney from Eastern LMC said care was needed to ensure equal weight is given to spoke and hub practices.

Dr McDowell said it should 'go without saying' that there should be sufficient funding for all GMS premises, and that ‘GPs must not pay for the premises for TYC work through GMS’. ‘There must be a commensurate funding stream’, he added.

The motion insisted the business aims of private developers ‘must be secondary to the needs of patients’.

Delegates passed a second motion demanding health centre charges be ‘set realistically, at a rate which reflects the services provided under robust service level agreements and prevailing costs for a range of GP premises’.

GPC negotiator Dr Peter Holden told the conference that premises cost directions for England had been signed ‘to keep the money flowing’ but there would be further changes in the next few weeks.

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