Northern Ireland GPs set to agree federations model

GPs in Northern Ireland could join regional practice federations by April and are close to a deal to take back a lead role in out-of-hours primary care.

Dr Tom Black: GP federations plan
Dr Tom Black: GP federations plan

LMC representatives will meet next week to decide which which model should be taken forward following pilots in three areas.

GPs from Belfast, Derry and North Down will report on their pilot federations before LMC representatives and GPC Northern Ireland agree a single template.

GPC Northern Ireland chairman Dr Tom Black said federations were necessary to manage the government’s Transforming Your Care programme of shifting work from secondary to primary care, and could become primary care provider organisations.

‘We think local federations will be able to manage the shift left and make sure it is always planned, agreed and resourced,' he said.

‘But also bring practices together with common working in terms of primary care provision. We feel, actually, if this is going to work, we are going to have to have a primary care provider system within general practice, that’s going to have to be overarching to take in all the practices.’

GPs are divided over how federations should work, with some favouring informal arrangements for commissioning, others preferring federations with legal, primary care commissioning, and provision responsibilities.

But Dr Black said he was confident LMC representatives would agree a single template to take forward.

Meanwhile, plans have been drawn up for Northern Irish GPs to take control of out-of-hours provision.

Dr Black said GPC Northern Ireland had reached agreement with the Health and Social Care Board on a framework for out-of-hours provision.

While the board had agreed to GPC Northern Ireland’s wish that GPs should take control of services, Dr Black said proposals to increase funding were not radical enough. The service, he added,  was ‘in trouble’ and needed to be controlled by GPs.

Concerns were raised over recruitment and retention problems during the summer, with out-of-hours sessions left unfilled.

LMCs in Northern Ireland voted in May to take back control ‘of the organisation and commissioning of the delivery’ of GP out-of-hours care.

Dr Black said: ‘We need to develop more economy and flexibility for out-of-hours organisations, and we feel they should be GP organisations, so we feel, again, that should be through the primary care provider model.’

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