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Northern Irish general practice 'will collapse' before resignations collected

General practice in Northern Ireland is likely to collapse before the GPC collects enough undated resignations to walk away from the NHS, GP leaders have warned.

Speaking with Pulse, GPC Northern Ireland chair Dr Tom Black said that LMC leaders were warning of practices across the country on the brink of collapse at a committee meeting last week.

The Northern Ireland GPC is currently collecting resignations from GPs, with the aim of stepping outside the NHS when they receive resignations from 60% of whole practices.

Dr Black said that the GPC was ‘finalising’ its so-called Plan B, which will lay out the details on charging for appointments and around staff, pensions and indemnity once GPs are outside the NHS.

However, he added that the closures of practices and no current government in Northern Ireland may mean that general practice will ‘collapse’ altogether before 60% of practices are collected. 

The whole of Northern Ireland is facing major practice closures, Dr Black said, including:

  • ’Multiple’ practices at risk of closure in Belfast where LMC leaders reported similar pressures to those long seen in rural areas;
  • Co Fermanagh is in a perilous state after the closure of a number of practices in recent weeks with half expected to go within the year;
  • And there is concern for Portadown, where it had been predicted the whole town could be left without a GP after a domino effect caused by the closure of a 5,200 patient practice in January.

The situation in Portadown had been helped by a restriction on patients moving practices, but that had recently been removed, Dr Black said.

‘There was a block on any transfers between practices [in Portadown] but that has been lifted so there is concern now that struggling practices may be destabilised further’, Dr Black said.

In January the GPC began to collect undated resignations after 97% voted to back the move which could see GPs leave the NHS and begin to charge for appointments.

‘There are lots of resignations coming in every week,’ said Dr Black who sent a newsletter last week to encourage practices to finalise them.

‘It is difficult for practices because they have to get all the GPs in their practice to sign and then get it checked by the lawyers.’

The goal has always been that once 60% of resignations are received the BMA will begin the process of stepping outside the NHS.

But the fast deterioration of general practice amidst political standstill with no government to implement or fund the GP Future Plan which was signed off in December means it is likely to come to a head before the critical mass of resignations are in, Dr Black said.

‘The general view of the meeting was that the collapse of general practice will happen before we get to the 60% of resignations.’

‘There are multiple collapses going on,’ he said.

Readers' comments (13)

  • May God bring the collapse sooner than later!!

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  • Disappearing Doc

    What a terrible prospect for patients in Northern Ireland

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  • Rogue1

    Its a shame for the doctors, and a pity for the patients caught up. But it needs to happen, to modernise the NHS. When will it spread to England? When will politicians wake up?

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  • This needs to happen across the UK, not the slow motion collapse we're seeing in England as politicians can find ways to cover those up!

    It sounds horrible to patient care but it seems obvious we're seeing so many outstanding practices in a state of complete collapse which is being orchestrated (by incompetence rather then malice by NHSE - we need a confrontation of the facts before an election

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  • Vinci Ho

    Remember the story of the boiling frog?
    And also Martin Niemoller's poem in 1947.
    As the results of local elections are unfolding today , one can see the potency of the Tories's upsurging (mainly because of sucking back votes from UKIP) in the presence of feeble opposition(s).

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  • In NI, There has been a deliberate policy from the DOH and some of the civil servants of running down General Practice. Funding has been cut by 50% in 12 years. Only 5.5% of the NHS budget goes to primary care, where 90% of face to face contacts take place.
    The DOH and the politicians do not appear to care for education [ cuts there too] nor health.
    They do care about burning pellets, a total of 1500 millions goes to the RHI scheme.

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  • Anonymous Locum GP

    sadly collapse will be a good thing as noboddy takes us seriously.


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  • I think the decay of NI General Practice has been slow and tortuous.... it needs to be cleanly finished off. Pull the plug guys......

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  • Take my word, when you are gone, no body would notice you. YOU WOULD NOT BE MISSED. Stop fooling yourself. There is a big hospital where everyone can go. That's what the public thinks. Sooner the General practice collapses better it would be.

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  • Anonymous Locum GP

    the thing that puzzles me is why is it taking so long to reach 60% resignations and how can things collapse before that point? are things stalling because of legal issues i.e. practices want to tender resignations but have to delay things because of legal ramifications and as such it may be better for them to collapse? it just seems strange that if things are that bad why hasn't the 60% threshold not be reached?

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