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GPs could resign in droves if rescue package not agreed

By Victoria O'Hara

Published 19/03/2016

Major concerns over workload pressures and a staffing crisis led to the move, taken at a Local Medical Committee meeting
Major concerns over workload pressures and a staffing crisis led to the move, taken at a Local Medical Committee meeting

Doctors in Northern Ireland are to be canvassed about mass resignations if the Government fails to negotiate a rescue package for struggling family GPs within six months.

Major concerns over workload pressures and a staffing crisis led to the move, taken at a Local Medical Committee meeting.

It was also agreed that the committee should consider balloting members on what work or services must cease to reduce workloads to ensure safe, sustainable care.

The committee backed calls for a public petition and campaign to urge the Assembly and Health Minister Simon Hamilton to develop an emergency package of measures to save general practice.

Tom Black, chair of the BMA's Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee, said general practice was "in crisis".

"We have an increasing number of patients, the lowest number of GPs per head of population and the lowest funding of any of the four UK countries," he added.

"GP practices are struggling to meet the needs of patients. Without the right level of funding, the situation will just get worse.

"Submitting undated resignations would be a drastic step, and it is not something we want to do, but we can no longer continue under this level of pressure."

A DHSSPS spokeswoman said the department was aware of the potential resignations.

"Although GPs are private contractors, the department has been working closely with the Health and Social Care Board, GP representatives and other primary care providers in implementing initiatives to ensure the resilience of general practice," she added.

"Action has already been taken to address the workload pressure, including reducing bureaucracy to allow GPs to spend more time with their patients.

"In December, the Health Minister announced a five-year strategy to put almost 300 pharmacists in GP practices by 2021, relieving pressure on GPs. An investment of up to £1.2m to increase the number of GP trainees to 85 per year from August 2016 was also announced in January 2016.

"In October 2015, the minister also initiated a working group to consider how to address the pressures to ensure that GPs are able to meet the challenge of rising demand, and this working group will report shortly," she added.

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