GPs will protect their service 'at all costs', warns Northern Ireland GPC leader

GPs in Northern Ireland will protect general practice 'at all costs' even if that means leaving the health service, the country's GPC leader will warn on Friday.

Dr Tom Black: Northern Ireland GPC chair
Dr Tom Black: Northern Ireland GPC chair

Dr Tom Black will tell politicians in a speech at the LMC conference 2017 in Edinburgh that they can choose to ‘work with us or work against us’.

GPC Northern Ireland is collecting undated resignations from GP practices in response to a failure by politicians to agree a new funding package for primary care.

GPs say they need £120m to achieve parity with England’s GP Forward View.

GP funding

The last Stormont administration agreed a reform package in principle, but no funding was available because of a budget stalemate. The subsequent political crisis and collapse of the government has left GPs in limbo as practices continue to face collapse.

GPonline reported earlier this year from the Northern Ireland LMC conference that GP leaders feared many practices would not survive long enough to take part in a mass resignation.

Dr Black will tell LMC delegates from  across the UK that GPs in Northern Ireland have learned that ‘the only thing worse than having politicians is having no politicians’.

He will say: ‘Let me be crystal clear: GPs in Northern Ireland are imbued with the values and principles of the NHS and do not want to leave the NHS to adopt private practice provision.

NHS reforms

‘GPs in Northern Ireland want to stay and work in the NHS in a system where patients receive a universal service, free at the point of need, funded by taxation.

‘We will do this through the twin track approach of offering our co-operation to implement the transformation of the health service in Northern Ireland, transformation that’s planned and needed but also by preparing to leave the NHS to protect and preserve a high quality service for our community.’

Dr Black has previously said that leaving the NHS was the only way to save general practice. GP leaders have drawn up a so-called ‘Plan B’ for general practice to operate outside the current contract with the health service. The proposals could mirror arrangements over the border in the Republic of Ireland, where patients are charged up to €60 per consultation, with government-funded free services for those on low incomes, the very young and the elderly.

Dr Black will tell LMCs: ‘These are difficult and dangerous times fraught with risks and challenges. On behalf of NIGPC let me throw down this challenge to the incoming minister for health in Northern Ireland: Work with us or work against us. Your choice, but be clear - we will protect the GP service for patients in Northern Ireland at all costs even if this means leaving the NHS.'

On Thursday GPC UK chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘I’d like to make special mention of the plight of our colleagues in Northern Ireland, facing a lack of functioning government, hung out to dry with no signs of investment, strategy or support, and to say that the rest of UK GPs are completely behind you in your actions to protect yourselves and patients.’

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