More patients and poor funding have GPs in crisis
General practice in Northern Ireland is in crisis. We have an increasing number of patients registering, the lowest number of GPs per head of population and the lowest funding of any of the four UK countries.
GP practices are struggling to meet the needs of patients and it is clear that patients throughout Northern Ireland are becoming frustrated by the difficulty of accessing GP appointments.
We are encouraging younger doctors to become GPs in Northern Ireland, but with current funding the job is very difficult.
The situation has declined to the point that practices cannot attract GPs to take over from colleagues who are retiring. This has placed many rural practices under threat and we have seen examples of this recently.
GPs in Northern Ireland are dedicated and want to provide the best care for patients. GPs have been working hard to develop new "federation" structures that will enable patients to access more of the services they need within primary care.
GPs need this work to be funded by Government to help patients get access to care in their communities. GPs have been working hard on new ideas to deliver this. However, the long-term under-investment in general practice needs to be reversed urgently.
DR TOM BLACK
Chair, NI General Practitioners Committee