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Over 90% of Northern Ireland GPs fear for patient care due to lack of funding

By Victoria O'Hara

Almost every GP in Northern Ireland fears that a lack of resources is putting patient care at risk, a shocking new poll has revealed.

Worryingly, the poll also suggests that nearly half of GPs plan to leave the medical field in the next five years.

The new figures released today have led to urgent calls from leading family doctors for action by the government.

The ComRes poll indicated that 93% of GPs here agree that their workload affects their ability to deliver high quality patient care.

Dr John O'Kelly from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) NI said it was time for action and described the situation as "appalling".

Over the last 18 months GPs have warned of the crisis facing the service due to serious staff shortages.

The poll also showed 15% said it is unlikely or very unlikely that their current practice will be open in 10 years' time. In addition, 98% of GPs believe that, without more resources, waiting times for appointments will increase.

Dr Kelly said: "GPs are overworked, overtired and worried about being able to deliver sustainable, high quality health services to local communities in the future. It is appalling that more than nine in 10 (93%) of family doctors feel that their workload affects their ability to deliver high quality patient care.

"General practice is the cornerstone of our health system and family doctors must be given the adequate tools in order to do their job effectively," he added.

An influential working group set up in Northern Ireland by the Government previously called for GPs to be recruited from overseas in an attempt to alleviate recruitment problems.

The RCGP and British Medical Association have said that Northern Ireland should increase the annual number of GP training places from 85 to 111 by 2019/20, and should step up overseas recruitment - including at least 10 extra GPs from EU countries over the next 12 months.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton has previously said he had invested in the biggest increase in GP training places in more than a decade and announced a multi-year investment putting up 300 pharmacists in surgeries by 2010/21. "These actions will help to address workload pressures and improve care for patients. But I recognise the pressure our GP services are under and that there is more to do," he said.

Belfast Telegraph


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