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GP leaders plead with civil servants to rescue NI general practice

Northern Irish GP leaders are pleading with civil servants to roll out the pre-agreed Northern Ireland GP rescue deal as the political stalemate rumbles on.

The GP Rescue Plan, modelled on NHS England's GP Forward View and hammered out and signed off last December, needs to be implemented before it is too late, the BMA warns.

The breakdown of the power-sharing Government in January has left the country’s crisis-hit NHS in limbo, despite a raft of policies previously agreed to turn the situation around.

This included the rescue plan - the exact details of which have not been revealed - and a 10-year transformation agenda for health and social care which was announced in October 2016 before the Government collapsed.

Dr Tom Black, Northern Ireland BMA GP Committee chair, said the Department of Health has said it has not got access to funding to implement plans to invest in general practice, despite them being agreed months ago.

However, Dr Black continues to meet with civil servants - including a meeting earlier this week - arguing that the stalemate cannot continue.

‘There seems to be no imminent possibility of politicians being back in place so we need to go ahead.

‘These policy decisions were signed off at the end of December and civil servants need to implement them,’ he told Pulse.

The GPC in Northern Ireland is also still trying to get agreement on the 2017/18 GP contract which was supposed to be in place in April.

‘We are in discussions about the 17/18 contract and we are hoping that will go ahead in the next month or so but it is very difficult,’ Dr Black said.

His comments follow calls from medical Royal Colleges across Northern Ireland for urgent cross party action to reform health and social care.

In a signed statement, the group including the RCGP warned that ‘healthcare reform has been delayed for too long and, as a result, our health and social care system is deteriorating and patient care is suffering’.

The response was in reaction to the announcement that the five health trusts in the country were planning around £80m of cuts – mainly targeting hospitals but which would have a knock on effect on the rest of the NHS.

‘In the absence of strategic decision making and planned reform, reactive cuts will be made for the purpose of balancing the books rather than to ensure that the best possible services are being delivered to patients within our given resources,’ the joint statement said.

General practice in the country has been hit hard by chronic underfunding – at just 5% of the NHS budget the lowest in the UK – and severe recruitment and retention problems.

The GPC has predicted 6% of practices could be forced to close this year and is continuing to collected undated resignations after GPs voted to walk away from the NHS.

Details of the Plan B outlining charging for appointments and around staff, pensions and indemnity once GPs are outside the NHS are still being worked out.

But GP negotiators have said there is a risk that with closures of practices and no current government in Northern Ireland general practice will ‘collapse’ altogether before 60% of practices are collected.

Readers' comments (11)

  • We have waited too long, general practice in my area has been destroyed,
    Plan B, leaving the NHS and setting up a private general practice In our region has to be the only solution to chronic underfunding and dereliction of care of primary health in our region.
    The Department of health in Belfast is of The opinion that primary care is still over resourced, there is a fetish with supplying secondary care all that they ask for, gone are the days that altruistic general practitioners are prepared to prop up this dysfunctional system.
    Fear of the unknown is the only factor that has stopped primary care possessions from pressing the button to leave the health service, and yet, this interaction has worsened our crisis further,
    Local politicians have the responsibility to fix this mess and yet there are caught up in tribal petty politics to the detriment of all public services, the Result is that we are witnessing catastrophic collapse in our health care provision here,
    We have gone past the point of begging our politicians to do their jobs, now is the time for action, there are two solutions, firstly set a date to leave NHS and secondly except that the model is broken here.

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  • Guys, you are wasting your breath with these 'civil' servants, they will find excuses to do nothing.... anybody want to take me up on a bet?

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  • Add on the rising indemnity year after year, the weather, the useless flag waving politicians, and I still wonder why there are any GPs left in NI. They have killed off the incentive to be anything but a private specialist servicing only those who can afford it..... god bless those who can't in our brave new world.....

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  • Locally in Tasmania here the jobs are pretty much 9-5ish. Salary at the current exchange rate about £200-235k/yr for 10 sessions a week, indemnity £2k roughly.....no admin except checking your results. Our practice even arranges a domestic goddess for your own home to allow you to enjoy a better work life balance, so when you're at work your house is being cleaned and the laundry done,........No practice management to worry about. Grow lemons in your garden. Go walking, cycling, fishing and canoeing all weekend. Our biggest concern is the rainfall as it has a big impact on the local wines.....will it be a good vintage or not? When are the NHSE idiots coming out here to try and lure us back??? Im keeping a few tomatoes and pumpkins in the compost especially for them...... :-)

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  • Anonymous Locum GP

    if things are that bad - why is it taking so long to collect undated resignations or develop plan B?

    surely it's better to collect those 60% resignations with an orderly exit than wait for collapse?

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  • Fear not brave Irishmen
    Fear not and look to the skies
    Even as the hour is darkest,Dr Vautery putteth on his underpants over his tights,donneth his red cloak of power and flies to thine aid(first class non refundable)
    On the third day ,at dawn,look to the east for his coming
    And behold he doth smite the civil servanites
    and all shall see his power

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  • Where are the top 50 influential doctors now.?
    Comfortable with their rewards, I suspect .lthey should be steering if they are to help primary care. Bad bad

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  • NI is the test bed for the demise of primary care. When all the doctors resign from the NHS the Government can conveniently blame the doctors for walking away. The insurance based model will have to be implemented to pay for patients to see the private GP. When it looks like it is working offer it to the disgruntled public in England and hey presto all privatised.

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  • Cobblers

    5 year plan, 10 year Transformational, Great Leap Forward.

    Recall those being implemented in China in the 1960s. Went well if I recall, not. (TIC)

    STOP the 'pleading' boys and girls. You have the whip hand. Use it.

    Get the resignations, set a date and JFDI!

    Set your fees and go private.

    Or go to Taz where the genetic delights will amaze you. (/joke)

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  • Come on down cobblers... we need fresh genes in the gene pool here!!!!! :-)

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