Belfast Telegraph

GPs are in a critical condition

By David McNarry

One aspect of the present budgetary crisis which often gets overlooked is the impact it has on government forward planning.

Our stalled budget has led to a crippling lack of decisions across departments when what is needed is planned investment in restructuring how services are delivered to the public.

Nowhere is this more important than with our GPs - the anchor of primary care in the health service. Some 34% of GPs will retire in the next five years and a further 28% are thinking of going part time. And 20% of new GPs plan to move abroad within five years. Only 33 of the 65 GPs due to complete their training here last year actually did so.

Across Northern Ireland, there is a shortage of 234 family doctors. Over the past 10 years, the number of patients registered with GPs has risen by 125,000 (from 1.8 million in 2004 to 1.92 million in 2014), while the number of GP surgeries has dropped from 366 to 351.

Pressures on GPs are immense. Work formerly carried out elsewhere is being dumped on doctors with no money, or with inadequate amounts of money.

They are put under pressure on how long they can spend with each patient, but the truth is they are treating more older people with time-consuming, complex health problems.

Our GPs' work-related stress also means that they are more likely to end up as patients themselves.

Ukip wants to start at the GP training stage by abolishing all student fees for medical students - provided they promise to work and pay taxes in this country for five years.

We must train our own young people for jobs, rather than relying on importing doctors and other professionals from abroad.

Given the size of youth unemployment, Ukip asks why can we not train our own young people for jobs which we know will exist in this country? The Government's record on employment planning is abysmal.

Also, by restricting immigration, Ukip will tackle the pressure of immigrants on doctors' surgeries. The 80,000-plus of new arrivals into Northern Ireland could well be the straw that breaks the camel's back as far as pressure on GPs is concerned.

  • David McNarry MLA is leader of Ukip in Northern Ireland

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