Overhaul of Northern Ireland GP services step closer as reforms to be rolled out
A new era in GP care in Northern Ireland is an important step closer, as the first stage of a major healthcare initiative prepares to for implementation.
GP Federations in Down and Londonderry will be the first to benefit from Multi Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) at their practices, the Department of Health said last night.
Multi Disciplinary Teams involve the establishment of practice-based physiotherapists, mental health specialists and social workers at GP practices - working alongside doctors and nurses to better meet the needs of the local population.
The reforms will also mean significant investment in specialist roles such as health visiting and district nursing.
There will be 17 GP Federations across Northern Ireland, and the implementation of the new team-working arrangements across them all is expected to take five years.
It is expected that in the region of 200 posts will be created in Derry, which covers approximately 200,000 patients, and Down, which serves 75,000 patients.
These new posts will be filled by a mixture healthcare professionals - physiotherapists, social workers, mental health practitioners, district nurses and health visitors.
The next phase of the planned province-wide implementation will begin in west Belfast.
Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said: "By bringing in new professional roles to work alongside and support GPs and nurses, we can really improve care in communities and neighbourhoods."
The news was welcomed by Alliance Party health spokeswoman Paula Bradshaw, who said the plan would help cut waiting lists.
"It is therefore extremely good news teams are already to be established in two parts of Northern Ireland," she said.
"These are vital moves to tackling the crisis in general practice and reducing waiting lists, and they have our support."