Northern Ireland GP practices to receive £7m contract uplift in 2016/17

The Northern Ireland government has announced a £7m uplift to the GP contract for 2016/17 and a £10m premises loan fund.

Northern Ireland GPC chairman Dr Tom Black
Northern Ireland GPC chairman Dr Tom Black

The Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety said it had accepted the recommendations of the Doctors and Dentists Review Body (DDRB) to increase GP pay by 1%.

The 2016/17 contract deal for England also includes a 1% pay uplift, delivered through a £220m funding increase.

In Northern Ireland, the total uplift of £7m includes a previously announced £2.55m to fund practice pharmacists.

GP workload

£2m of the new investment comes from the £30m transformation fund announced earlier this month, and will be used to address the pressures of a growing, ageing population, and additional staff to support those living with long-term conditions.

Health minister Simon Hamilton also announced that another £1.25m of the transformation fund would be invested in district nursing and health visiting services.

An additional £10m will be made available as financial loans for investment in premises and infrastructure.

The minister said: ‘Our investment in the 2016/17 contract will help to address rising demand and will ensure we adopt innovative new ways of working such as online appointment booking and repeat prescriptions. By working at scale through federations our GPs can help us ensure services are delivered in the community and help address some of the pressures facing our hospitals.’

Northern Ireland GPC chairman Dr Tom Black welcomed the announcement but warned that practices were still facing the threat of collapse.

GP funding

‘The investment put forward in this year's general practice contract is welcome and acknowledges the hard work of GPs who have come up with new ideas to help address the impact of years of underfunding and inadequate workforce planning,' he said.

‘Despite this, we are still living with the real threat of GP practices closing as doctors retire and cannot be replaced. We are keeping a close watch on this issue, particularly in the border counties where many practices are vulnerable to collapse.’

The minister also announced he had received the report of the GP-led working group he set up in October 2015 to look at the issues facing primary care services in Northern Ireland. The group includes representatives from DHSSPS, RCGP, Health and Social Care Trusts, RCN and GPC. 

Mr Hamilton said: ‘I have already taken action to address some of the key issues identified by the working group. I have invested in the biggest increase in GP training places in more than a decade and I have announced a multi-year investment putting up to 300 pharmacists in GP surgeries by 2020/21. These actions will help to address workload pressures and improve care for patients. But I recognise the pressure that our GP services are under and that there is more to do.

‘Today’s report will be carefully considered as we take further steps to ensure the future of general practice. I thank all those in the group for their hard work and commitment in producing this report.’

Dr Black added: ‘It is vital that there is now active implementation of this plan, with the required investment. Workload has increased substantially in the last 10 years and this has contributed to difficulties in GP recruitment. General practice in Northern Ireland is underfunded compared with the rest of the UK and this situation needs to be reversed to safeguard the future of general practice here.’

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