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Doctors demand action from minister to tackle workload crisis

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 20/07/2016

Pressure: Michelle O’Neill
Pressure: Michelle O’Neill

More than 160 GPs have signed an open letter to Health Minister Michelle O'Neill calling for immediate action to be taken to address the crisis facing doctors.

The message highlights urgent issues including a struggling workforce, an increase in workload and a lack of investment in GP-led services.

At a meeting today, representatives for the Royal College of General Practitioners Northern Ireland (RCGPNI ) presented the minister with their demands and asked that they be considered as a matter of urgency.

It follows research by the Northern Ireland branch of the British Medical Association showing almost three-quarters of practices (74%) were struggling with increased workloads, and 10% were barely coping.

Concerns have also been raised about growing patient lists, the increasing use of locum doctors and a huge increase in the volume of paperwork.

RCGPNI chair Dr John O'Kelly said: "We have outlined 10 initial key actions that we believe would begin to address these issues, but we need to see a commitment to delivering on these as a matter of urgency.

"In the longer term, we must see the recommendations in out GP-led working group report implemented in full."

Dr O'Kelly spoke as the public was urged to sign a petition calling on the Assembly to act to resolve the crisis facing GPs.

The British Medical Association Northern Ireland petition, which was launched this week, is available to sign in surgeries.

It demands that 10% of the overall health budget be invested in building a "safe, sustainable GP service".

It also calls for the training of more GPs so practices at risk of closure can stay open.

The chair of the BMA's Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee, Dr Tom Black, urged people to sign the petition.

"This is a matter of urgency to not only rescue general practice, but to ensure that patients in Northern Ireland have a responsive, safe and sustainable general practice service that they know will be there when they need it," he explained.

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