Petition to support GPs signed by nearly 2% of entire population of Northern Ireland

Tens of thousands of patients have signed a BMA Northern Ireland petition calling for urgent investment to tackle the crisis facing general practice.

Dr Arnie McDowell: practices under threat
Dr Arnie McDowell: practices under threat

More than 30,000 people signed the petition, delivered to the Northern Ireland Assembly by assembly member and health committee chair Paula Bradley this week.

BMA leaders launched the petition after warning earlier this year that general practice was on the edge of a full-blown crisis.

A report by the union warned that 74% of practices in Northern Ireland were struggling and nearly 10% barely coping with growing patient lists, staffing gaps and bureaucracy.

GP crisis

The petition calls on health ministers to ensure the survival of general practice by increasing its share of NHS spending to 10%, training more GPs and helping practices free up more time to spend with patients.

Northern Ireland GPC member Dr Arnie McDowell welcomed the huge public support for the petition.

'To collect over 30,000 signatures in just six weeks is testament to how much value people in Northern Ireland place on general practice,' he said.

'We’re overwhelmed and delighted by the support we’ve received and it gives us great heart that the public is backing our calls for immediate action to save general practice in Northern Ireland. We cannot stress enough that the minister of health needs to act on this now.

Practice closures

'The majority of rural practices in Northern Ireland are at serious risk of closure due to workforce and workload issues.  However the depth of the crisis is now such that larger practices in more urban areas are also at increasing risk. '

Ms Bradley said: 'General practice is one of the key bedrocks of every community in Northern Ireland and is the first point of contact for 90% of health and social care related needs.

'However general practice is now in crisis due to an excessive workload, diminishing workforce and inadequate funding.'

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