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Health care should be next government's 'top priority', poll suggests

Health care should be top priority for the next government in Northern Ireland, a poll for a doctors' group suggested.

Four-fifths of those surveyed said they were worried political instability will delay necessary improvements, the Royal College of General Practitioners in Northern Ireland (RCGPNI) said.

It called for 11% of the health budget to be devoted to general practice and the full implementation of recommendations to "stabilise" the service.

Chair of the college, Dr Grainne Doran, said: "Until we have a fully functioning government in place, health and social care reform will continue to be put on hold.

"In the meantime, general practice services continue to deteriorate and if urgent action is not taken, patient care will suffer."

According to a recent YouGov poll, most who used GP services said there was a need for more GPs.

Almost twice as many people prioritised health as the economy.

RCGPNI has been calling on the government to take immediate action to address the current crisis facing general practice. Stormont elections are due next week.

The British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors, has said there are now fewer GPs in Northern Ireland than in the 1950s.

There are claims that droves of doctors could leave the NHS if an urgent rescue package is not rolled out.

Unions have started taking undated letters of resignation as the pressure intensifies.

Some surgeries have risked closure as overworked doctors resign.

Dr Doran added: "Health and social care, including investing in general practice, must be the top priority for political parties.

"We no longer have the luxury of time, we need to see urgent action to address primary care pressures, immediately following the election."

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