Northern Ireland LMCs back four-nation GP contract

GPs in Northern Ireland have said they support the continuation of a UK-wide GMS contract.

Dr Tom Black: UK-wide contract remains vital
Dr Tom Black: UK-wide contract remains vital

Delegates at the Northern Ireland LMCs conference in Newcastle, County Down on 14 April, backed a motion which said there were ‘considerable advantages’ to the current four-nation GMS contract. The motion said the time was not right for a separate Northern Ireland deal.

Support for the UK-wide deal echoed a vote at the Scottish LMCs conference in March.

The meeting of GP representatives came just two weeks after GPC Northern Ireland (NIGPC) negotiators secured a last minute contract deal to avoid the imposition of a contract settlement they believed was the 'harshest in the UK'. The deal will see MPIG support for practices remain in place and a 1.5% funding uplift.

NIGPC deputy chair Dr Alan Stout told delegates the UK-wide contract remained important despite improvements agreed to the deal on offer in Northern Ireland.

NIGPC chair Dr Tom Black said he was constantly asked whether Northern Ireland should have a separate contract given differences in the deal compared with other nations. But he said: ‘In actual fact, there is so much in common.’

Dr Black said the collective expertise of the UK GPC in contract negotiations was unmatched. There was ‘zero capacity to negotiate a Northern Ireland-only contract’, added Dr Stout.

The conference also passed a motion demanding Northern Ireland's Department for Health, Social Services and Public Safety acts ‘as a matter of urgency’ to address the progressive defunding of general practice’ caused by failure to resource the expanding and changing population.

Dr Arnie McDowell, secretary of Southern LMC proposed the motion. He told delegates the population increase in Northern Ireland of 7% since 2004 had led to a reduction in core funding of primary care, ‘a progressive, year-on-year defunding’.

He said the 'expanding population supplement' introduced in 2009 accounted for just 2% of the population increase, and 40% of that was taken off practices’ correction factor funds.

Dr McDowell said GPs had been ‘working for nothing for too long, and it has to stop’.

But Dr Black warned GPs would ‘gain little traction out there’ in ‘portraying ourselves as underpaid’.

Delegates passed a motion recognising and appreciating the ‘huge amount of hard work’ by Dr Black in leading the contract negotiations.

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