GP agreement signed, says McGimpsey
Medical services to patients in Northern Ireland have been secured after doctors signed a contract with the health department.
Health Minister Michael McGimpsey said the General Medical Services (GMS) GP contract will cover 2011/12 and is part of a UK-wide contract.
Dr Tom Black, chairman of the British Medical Association's GP committee, said: "I am relieved that this contract has been signed off by Minister McGimpsey but disappointed at the delay.
"Family doctors across Northern Ireland have been concerned for their patients in light of the uncertainty that they have faced.
"We are reassured that the contractual basis for providing services to patients in Northern Ireland has been implemented."
He said the contract, due to start in two weeks' time, will provide efficiency savings of 4% and expand the services available to patients at no extra cost.
It does not include a pay rise for doctors and Dr Black said it was important resources were provided for primary care at a level which meets the needs of the community.
Mr McGimpsey said his department's budgetary allocation was only agreed by the Assembly last week.
"The GMS settlement for 2011/12 will drive up GP productivity and secure higher quality services and better value-for-money from the GMS contract," he said.
"That can only be good news for patients and for the health service, particularly when the Northern Ireland budget is under such pressure."