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Extra funding welcome with some GP services on the brink of collapse

This announcement from the Department of Health begins to address some of the issues facing our health and social care service, both in general practice as well as in hospital care.

Additional funding for our health service is always welcome, and this is particularly the case in general practice, where a lack of investment has badly damaged the service and left GP services, particularly those in rural areas, on the brink of collapse.

By investing in multi-disciplinary teams - where your GP practice could also have a social worker, physiotherapist or mental health worker as part of its staff - it means there will be more resources and opportunities to provide the care that patients need.

GPs will only see the patients they really need to see, while making sure the right care is provided in a way that best suits the individual patient's needs.

However, we know from the lengthy waiting lists across Northern Ireland that patients are facing long waits once they are referred on from the GP to the hospital.

Key to addressing these long waiting lists will be implementing some of the proposals in the Bengoa Report in terms of changing the way we deliver services across Northern Ireland.

We need to look at new ways of working, or, where doctors in a hospital have been able to devise or pilot a new way of working, make sure that the resources are in place to bring this success to the wider population.

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There is innovation going on in our health service, but doctors need more autonomy to devise better and more efficient ways of working.

Involving doctors in the new strategies for cancer, stroke, diabetes and paediatrics and giving doctors the time to develop the proposed elective care centres will ensure those services can actually make the hoped-for impact on waiting times.

Key to addressing issues across both general practice and hospital care is tackling the issue of our medical workforce.

The British Medical Association has stated many times that we simply do not have enough doctors and we need to make sure that we are training and employing the right number of doctors to meet the growing needs of the population.

Dr John D Woods is the British Medical Association's Northern Ireland Council chair

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