GPs 'only specialty that kept normal work going alongside COVID service'

Northern Ireland's BMA GP committee chair has hailed GPs' 'unbelievable' response to the pandemic - pointing out that no other medical specialty had kept normal services running while delivering a COVID service in parallel.

Northern Ireland GPC chair Dr Alan Stout
Northern Ireland GPC chair Dr Alan Stout

Speaking at the annual conference of LMCs in Northern Ireland - held online on 14 November - Dr Alan Stout will thank colleagues across the country for their 'magnificent response' during the pandemic.

GP leaders at the conference are set to debate motions thanking the profession - but will highlight the impact of the pandemic on workload, warning that practices are 'at capacity with respect to workload and workforce'.

Doctors will welcome online and telephone consultations - widely adopted at pace across UK general practice in response to COVID-19 - as a useful tool, but will warn that once the pandemic subsides these must not be seen as a 'universal replacement for face-to-face consultations'.

Dr Stout will say that the past year has been ‘massively challenging’ and pressure will continue for some time, particularly as practices take on the challenge of delivering a COVID vaccine.

COVID-19 response

He will tell GPs in Northern Ireland: 'You have been magnificent and have stepped up and responded to the crisis in an unbelievable fashion. We have been stretched and we have been challenged, practices have changed and adapted literally overnight, and at all times we kept the health of the population and the interests and care of our patients as our priority.

'The pandemic has meant it has been massively challenging at times, and the stress and strain has been immense, but it shows the huge strength, the confidence and the faith we have in all of them that we have been able to ensure we have run two parallel services keeping patients, staff and our GPs safe and ensuring a service for COVID and for non-COVID patients in primary care which has proved so vital'

He will say: 'General practice is the only speciality that has managed to maintain and run a normal service alongside a COVID service and it is testament to the commitment, the determination, the dedication and the professionalism of all our colleagues that we have been able to do this.'

BMA leaders in Northern Ireland have negotiated 'a full contract freeze for GPs' that goes beyond the deal agreed in England, where part of the QOF remains in operation.

GP leaders in Northern Ireland also negotiated 'an immediate extension to the sickness scheme, central indemnity for all COVID-19 related work, an extension to the death-in-service scheme, flu vaccine support and lobbied for better delivery of PPE for practices', Dr Stout will say.

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