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GPs unlikely to hit resignation target to walk away from NHS

Exclusive GPs in Northern Ireland are unlikely to walk away from the NHS despite more practices facing closure in the coming months, Pulse has learned.

The BMA has been collecting undated resignations since January 2017 after 97% of GPs backed the move in a series of meetings across the country.

Once 60% of practices have sent in resignations, the BMA has said it will launch its 'plan B' of GPs walking away from the NHS and potentially charging around £45 for appointments.

But BMA GP Committee chair for Northern Ireland Dr Tom Black said while some resignations are still trickling in, many practices are hunkering down, focusing on core services and trying to fix the problems they are facing, and he does not expect the threshold to be met.

He added that despite there still being no government in place to implement the agreed GP Rescue Package - since the collapse of the power-sharing agreement in Northern Ireland - the Department of Health was working on aspects of the deal to take the pressure off overstretched GPs.

‘I never wanted general practice outside the NHS but we had to make it clear to the powers that be that failure to act would result in us leaving,’ he said.

‘The Department of Health are working with us now on things like building up multidisciplinary teams.

‘If the GP forward led review is implemented then we can avoid resignations.’

Dr Black added that practices only tended to send in resignations when they had reached a ‘there is no alternative’ moment.

A part-time pharmacist in every practice and a planned enhanced service to train support staff on dealing with aspects of admin usually left to GPs will help practices, he added.

‘Hopefully with help from pharmacists practices are hunkering down and focusing on core services and that means they are a wee bit more stable.

‘Things are very difficult, I would never say we are getting any relief but I have always said this is our problem and we have to own it.’

However, GPs in the country are still under severe strain due to workforce shortages and lack of funding.

In Fermanagh, 18 practices have merged into eight in the past year with another expected to close.

Dr Black said more mergers or closures in other areas of the country were likely and they were working to keep practices under GMS contracts.

‘I wouldn’t be surprised if another 20 or 30 consolidate in the next year.

‘We have said to GPs to consolidate down and stick to core service and try not to take on any more admin or paperwork.’

The workload optimisation enhanced service, which funds training for other staff to take over roles such as reading hospital letters and actioning requests for blood tests was recently piloted in three practices.

‘Each of these things are saving 10-15 minutes a day but add them together that is another 30-40 minutes. So GPs can focus on core services’ he said. 

Readers' comments (9)

  • DoH will be pleased..more beatings to come

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  • Council of Despair

    not sure what to say but then why bother making a fuss BMA when you always always back down? it just makes Drs look like whingers and weak. Sigh - that's probably why so many are just taking individual action and RELPC rather than have faith in the BMA. It doesn't make sense that 90% voted for it but have backed down now??? really don't understand the logic.

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  • Dear Tom:
    Our resignation letter has been with your office for nearly 12 months, I have watched in despair the destruction of primary care here and I cry when I read of your capitulation to the hscni and others despite the total disdain shown by them to primary care over the past few years.
    So what now? Firstly my resignation from the Bma will be tendered tomorrow and then our practice will have to fight on its own for its very survival, general practice in Fermanagh will continue but delivered through a very different model of care, we will have to rely on our own wits to survive as we have had no, NO support from hscni, Bma or others, we are like a ship adrift on the ocean buffeted by storms not of our own making and still trying to plot a course to dry land,
    Currently nhs Gp spend here is about 5.5% total budget and continues to shrink, god help us if we really thought salvation would come from elsewhere, cause to date it hasnt and it has left us remaining gps increasingly exposed to forces outwith our control,

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  • It is tmpting to suggest NI GPs deserve to be treated like doormats if they behave like doormats; but to be fair to them, could the BMA be trusted to organise the proverbial piss up in a brewery? Probably not.

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  • Coal face.... come to Tasmania! Bring your colleagues with you..... its not too hot, and you get paid more the more you do....... or at least explore your options. Scotch Oakburn is great if you need a school....and it at least as good as Potora, St Kevins or anywhere else there.

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  • Don't worry - Arlene Foster will sort things out for you in Fermanagh.

    Go raibh maith agat.

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  • Rogue1

    They just don't get it! Stick to core services and don't take on more admin - the hospitals are forever dumping work on general practice, or sending them home with incomplete unsafe package, so we end up having to safety net every single day.

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  • C'mon guys, the only certain saving you can make at the moment is saving your wasted subscription on BMA. The 400 pounds a year will at least allow you to have a few hours to spend by the seaside and peacefully enjoy a whiff of fresh air, chirping of the gulls, the blue skies and music of the rippling waves. Take a break.

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  • Irish GPs, please come to England, we desperately need you, although you will still face the same unworkable rules, there is more staff than what you have. Jump the sinking ship to our leaky one.

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