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GPs go forth

GPC will 'take firm legal measures' to stop forced allocation of patients

GP leaders in Northern Ireland says they will take legal steps to protect GP practices from being compelled to take on patients from neighbouring surgeries that have closed.

GPC Northern Ireland chair Dr Tom Black, said he would take ‘firm legal measures’ to prevent already struggling practices being forced to take on additional patients because ‘we cannot allow a precedent to be set’.

It comes amid fears that practices in Portadown could be left facing a ‘domino effect’ if a new contractor is not found for a 5,200-patient practice that was left with no GPs.

The Bannview Medical Centre lost all four of its GPs in quick succession. Currently being run ad hoc by locums, an advert has been put out for a GP contractor to take over but the BMA said it is not looking hopeful.

Six other practices based in the same health centre are in no position to take on 1,000 patients each as they too are ‘teetering on the brink’, Southern LMC had warned.’

Dr Black said: ‘As of yesterday there was still no contractor so we have no willing provider and no GPs for 5,200 patients. Health boards are spending a lot of money trying to find providers but there is no appetite to take on contracts.’

He said the BMA is concerned that the Health and Social Care Board will decide the best way to deal with the situation is to allocate the patients to other practices. But he said: ‘We would be very firm in our view that we would protect those practices from forced allocations.’

Dr Black added that legally it was complex but they had already looked at the issue in detail with their lawyers. ‘We are confident we could protect practices and we would take firm legal measures to protect practices,’ he said.

The Health and Social Care Board said it is currently in discussions with a potential provider for the Bannview contract. A spokesperson said: ‘This is still ongoing and we are not in a position to confirm the outcome of these discussions yet.’

A series of crisis meetings held by the BMA in Northern Ireland in recent weeks found that the overwhelming majority of GPs said they are willing to begin the process of leaving the health service to force the Government to act to rescue the crisis-hit service.

The GPC is planning to go ahead with asking GP practices across Northern Ireland to resign their contracts unless a rescue package can be agreed with the Department of Health in time for the next GPC meeting on 25 January.

The GPC is calling on the Northern Irish minister for health to ensure the survival of general practice by investing 10% of the healthcare budget on a safe, sustainable GP service for patients.

Without these urgent rescue measures, general practice is likely to collapse, it has warned.

Domino effect threatening general practice

Portadown is not the only town in the UK that GP leaders fear is one practice closure away from general practice collapse.

Earlier this month they expressed fears that this 'domino effect' could hit the north Yorkshire coastal town of Bridlington.

In the town, which has a population of 35,000, all of the practices have closed their lists to new patients amid an inability to recruit GPs to cope with workload pressures.

And, earlier this month, it was still touch and go whether NHS England would find a new provider for the 7,000-patient Field House Surgery, that was due to close on New Year's Eve.

In the end, it was rescued at the eleventh hour as Humber NHS Foundation Trust stepped in to take on the running of the practice. However, this is only an interim contract and NHS England has declined to tell Pulse of the financial arrangements in place.

With the BMA's recent survey of over 3,500 GPs showing that a third of practices have struggled to recruit for the last 12 months, NHS leaders are in a race against time to solve the workforce crisis.



Readers' comments (21)

  • They can spend 400 million in smoke on burning pellets, but they do not want to give GPs a penny. They have cut funding to GPs by 50% in 10 years.
    It is time to see the big stick used deliberately and maliciously to beat us GPS. It is time to leave.

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  • ho ho ho

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  • 1500 is a safe no of patients per gp and I believe NHS advised 1750 safe max so this is the upper limit to be a good service. 2000 ok prob still safeish but beyond that its overload city so just don't do it

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  • We were told under similar circumstances in Fermanagh that the LMC would fight vigorously against allocation of patients to neighbouring practices, why does HSCNI say one thing and LMC say the complete opposite?

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  • They are happy to pay APMS providers 2-3 times GMS providers. Cut funding and increase quangos and "regulation". It is best to leave and go the dentist way and stop all these bureacracy of allocation etc.

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  • Support our N.Ireland colleagues

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  • Vinci Ho

    Nigel, can't recall whether you have done a one to one interview of Tom. If not , I think you should.
    Happy Christmas to all.

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  • You need to let the system collapse now. Its the only thing that will get any attention on the subject. If I was working in any of the Portadown practices I would resign /retire/ give contractual notice now to keep the issue in the public eye and the pressure on the decision makers who have led us to the dire situation that British General Practice now finds itself in.

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  • Mr Mephisto

    I do agree with the last comment.
    It’s time for all of the Portadown GP’s to hand back their contracts to the HSCB.
    A 45,000 patient problem is something the HSCB Civil Servants cannot try and sweep under the carpet and pretend it doesn’t exist.
    A 45,000 patient problem is something that the politicians cannot ignore – it won’t just disappear it will become a black hole which will swallow everything within its gravitational field.
    Unlike Fermanagh (which has been boxed up, forgotten about, and resigned to the dustbin of history) Portadown is not that far down the road from Belfast.
    After Portadown, Lurgan, and Lisburn collapse, Belfast will be next.
    The electorate will be baying for blood – if the politicians think the “cash for ash” scandal was bad this will be ten times worse.
    The politicians and civil servants have been warned this would happen on multiple occasions and have chosen to ignore the issue or pretend it wasn’t there.
    There is a clear paper trail with which to hang them all with once the judicial review post mortem is carried out and the dead rotting carcass of the NHS in Northern Ireland.
    The vultures of the press who are more interested in “incompetent politician makes complete b*lls up” stories will have a field day picking over by the dead corpse of the body they could have saved but chose to ignore.
    The SPADS will ultimately pay the price for the “cash for ash” scandal however the blood on the carpet this time round will be the HSCB Civil Servants how have been economical with the truth in their dealings with our naïve wet behind the ears politicians.
    Many careers will be destroyed by this catastrophe.
    The politicians and the Civil Servants may not have seen the the risk to their own futures however their necks are very much on the line in this time around.

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