This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pul jul aug2020 cover 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

Independents' Day

Political turmoil nudges Northern Irish GPs closer to the exit door

Exclusive A rescue deal for general practice in Northern Ireland is at risk amid political turmoil that may trigger an election for a new Assembly.

Northern Ireland health minister Michelle O’Neill agreed to a package of measures on 23 December, according to NI GPC chair Dr Tom Black, who said it was 'essentially the equivalent of the GP Forward View' in England (which included pledges of a 14% increase in funding for general practice, reduced workload and a massive increase in workforce).

In a statement on the Department of Health website, Ms O’Neill said she had agreed to recommendations from a review of general practice in Northern Ireland published in March last year.

She added that the Government needed ’to take action now to address the challenges facing the [GP] service' and that she would launch a review to 'explore in more detail the way in which we provide GP services in the future'.

The GPC had previously called for the Government to invest 10% of the healthcare budget in general practice to avoid its 'collapse' but it is not known if this was expected to form part of the deal.

NI GPC was set to organise mass resignations of GP practices from the NHS if an agreement was not reached by the next GPC meeting on 25 January.

But the GPC said NHS resignations were now 'more likely', since if there is no Government there will be no budget and no means of agreeing funding for the plan and avert the action.

Following the resignation of her Sinn Fein party colleague Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minister on Monday, Ms O'Neill has said they are not interested in talks to save the current coalition with the Democratic Unionist Party's (DUP), according to the Belfast Telegraph.

Meanwhile, the BBC reported today that an election is 'highly likely'.

Dr Black told Pulse: 'We have a plan agreed with the health minister Michelle O'Neill - the GP-led Review Plan which is the equivalent of the GP Forward View. We expected this to be funded by the Department of Health after the budget.

'The collapse of the Assembly means that there won't be a budget in Northern Ireland so the GP plan won't be funded and therefore GP resignations are now more likely. This is a nightmare for general practice in Northern Ireland and will completely undermine any rescue plan for the GP service for patients.'

The GP-led review, which the health minister said she had accepted, made a number of recommendations including increasing the number of GPs working in Northern Ireland via an EU recruitment campaign and incentives to encourage Northern Irish doctors back from working overseas.

The plan also recommended encouraging GP recruitment by placing a greater focus on general practice in undergraduate medical training.

On workload, the report recommended better access to other healthcare staff to support GPs, such as nurses and pharmacists, while on infrastructure it recommended investment in technology and 'ringfenced recurrent resources to support improvement and upgrade of GP premises'.

Northern Ireland's 'plan B'

The GPC in Northern Ireland devised its 'plan B' to take GP practices out of the NHS after failing to get the Government to address issues facing general practice.

At the time, NI GPC chair Dr Tom Black said that the situation was worse than in England, with Northern Irish GPs not even having a GP Forward View rescue deal to turn to.

Since then, the GPC has received the backing of plan B from grassroots GPs in Northern Ireland, and 25 January was set as a deadline to reach a rescue deal with the Department of Health.

So what is the GPC's plan B?

It is looking at the model in the Republic of Ireland, where there are two types of patients. The first is those with a medical card who are seen in general practice without charge – this is dependent on income and covers around 40% of the population. But those without a card pay a charge of €45 to €55 for each consultation.


Readers' comments (7)

  • Council of Despair

    recommend reading resignation of this northern Ireland GP

    politicians have had years to sort the mess out that they created. there is no time left.

    NI should go for plan B. If we ever get a vote in England - I would vote for plan B as the GP Forward View like the extra 5000 GPs will never happen. We can not trust politicians to keep their promises. What will happen is money will go to the acute sector and we will be let down as per usual, worse than that we will be scapegoated as we are an easy target.

    notice there is never any negative press on dentists - wonder why?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The only way forward is to take plan b and see where it takes us, any further delay is foolhardy and we can't wait until the politicians wise up and become adults!

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • NI GPs: The GP Forward View is just pieces of paper with empty promises. Nothing more. Stand fast.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I would love to know the terms and conditions offered for the take over of the Portadown practice which found a contractor at the 'last minute'. Given the desperation has the new contractor been given overly favourable terms?? Freedom of information request anyone?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • To curious. New Contractors get lots more money. But such discrepancies are the norm in the NHS. Trust run GP centres get 20% extra for admin. Some GPs get almost 500, others 100 pounds per patient.
    In NI profit per patient varies from 45 to 85 pounds per year.
    This applies in hospitals as well. Kings College has almost 3X number of consultants per 100 beds as a Nottingham hospital. Some A+E departmental have 1 consultant for 4000, another 1 for 20000 patient attendances.
    The NHS is riven with injustice and iniquity.
    The doctors who get 500 also get wonderful CQC reports and the poor blighters on 90 pounds get torn to shreds because their surgeries are not as shiny.
    But the NHS world is ill divid and has always been thus

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • All unite to support our NI colleagues as I think this is where the future will be dictated

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Council of Despair

    Good luck NI GPs - you have grassroots support!

    Where you lead, hopefully we will follow.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say