GP cuts 'will harm patient care'
A £3.6 million cut to GP funding in Northern Ireland will see patient care suffer, a doctors' union has warned.
The move by the Health and Social Care Board will see each practice in the region losing around £10,000 over the next eight months, according to the British Medical Association (BMA).
The BMA said the funding reduction will result in job losses, service cuts and increased pressure on A&E and other hospital departments taking on work previously done by GPs.
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said he was opposed to any cuts in the health budget but had been left with little choice given the demands made on his department by the Executive.
Dr Brian Dunn, chair of the BMA's General Practitioner Committee in Northern Ireland, said: "I have been inundated by family doctors from across Northern Ireland who are angry, dismayed and disappointed at this cut to frontline services.
"Minister McGimpsey has repeatedly promised to protect frontline health services. If general practice and the services it provides isn't a frontline service then I don't know what is. Patients are going to suffer."
The BMA claimed the cuts are short-sighted and will ultimately result in higher costs for the health service as a whole.
Dr Dunn added: "This cut to practice funding will decrease the ability of GPs and their staff to maintain the services that patients expect.
"General practice is already under severe pressure and instead of being able to take on much-needed additional staff, many practices are looking at reducing staff numbers or cutting working hours.
"GPs want to provide as much treatment as possible to people in the community, but this cut may well result in an increase in hospital admissions and a decreased ability of practices to co-operate with schemes that allow shorter hospital stays, leading to increased costs to the health service."