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Independents' Day

GPs facing new paperwork burden on controlled drugs

The GPC in Northern Ireland is to investigate why disputes over staff funding it had submitted to the Department of Health as test cases appeared to have been ignored in favour of 'weaker' cases.

GPC chair Dr Brian Dunn wants to find out whether there was any political interference in the process from

the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, after claims were heard out of the order in which they were made.

Practices are warning they may have to make staff redundant if their claims fail, jeopardising patient care and quality points.

Some 46 practices have invoked official disputes resolution procedures in an attempt to secure funds for staff employed after their minimum practice income guarantees were calculated, which they say had been guaranteed as recurrent budgets.

The Northern Ireland

LMCs conference resolved to press health boards to 'fully fund' discrepancies in baseline staff allocations.

But while three initial test cases put forward with the assistance of Lockharts, the BMA's solicitors, have yet to be heard, at least three others, thought to be potentially weaker, have already been adjudicated and rejected.

Dr Dunn said he had a 'suspicion' the cases were heard out of order to prevent a precedent being set by the strongest cases.

'It could well be that it was organised in such a way that the outcome was predetermined. We will be investigating,' he said. 'We feel the

adjudicators are working on a false premise.' He challenged health boards to produce minutes that showed money was on a one-off basis.

Dr Brian Patterson, chair of the BMA Northern Ireland council and a GP in Portglenone, said his practice had so far absorbed the costs but could yet face laying off staff as a last resort.

He said: 'We've struggled for years to get the staffing

levels we need. The funding was very cynical in the way it was given.

'We'd be hoping common-sense will prevail.'

By Rob Finch

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