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Independents' Day

Politicians urged to take immediate action to avoid GPs leaving NHS

The Review Body on Doctors' and Dentists' Remuneration has urged the Northern Ireland Executive to take steps to ensure general practice is not ‘irrevocably damaged’ in a stark warning in its annual review of doctors pay.

GPs in Northern Ireland are ‘extremely discontented’ and while there is temporary reassurance that a primary care strategy is written and ready to go the suspension of the Government has put everything on hold, the DDRB said.

After pointing to the to the BMA’s move to collect undated resignations after 97% of GPs voted to step away from the health service, the DDRB described the situation as ‘particularly precarious’.

‘It could be potentially very serious for healthcare delivery if the resignations were submitted, and we urge the Northern Ireland Executive to take steps to ensure primary care delivery is not irrevocably damaged,’ the DDRB said.

The DDRB also warned of the problem of ‘last-man standing’ in Wales where there had been a trend towards GMPs ‘handing back the keys’ in rural areas, which, coupled with recruitment problems could hamper primary care delivery ‘in the near future’.

The NHS in Northern Ireland is on a knife-edge amid political standstill after power-sharing talks broke down.

In the meantime the general practice rescue package that was agreed in December cannot be implemented because the civil servants left in charge have no budget to work with.

‘There is an absolute degree of urgency and the health service is falling apart around us in all aspects,’ said Dr Alan Stout, deputy Northern Ireland GPC chair who added he was not at all confident there would be a solution any time soon.

He added that only 90% of the budget from last year can be carried over in the current stalemate so the situation was about to get even worse.

‘This is why we are collecting the undated resignations. If there is nobody there to solve it for us rather than an uncontrolled collapse we have to try and preserve and protect something.’

After receiving ‘overwhelming support’ when the plan was voted on, GPC NI began collecting resignations this year and say they will submit them once 60% of practices opt-in.

However, despite its warnings, the DDRB recommended just a 1% - below inflation - pay uplift for all UK doctors, which was accepted by health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

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 (13)





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  • The government recognises the NHS is unsustainable and wants GPs to go private along with those that can afford to pay for private care. In short it doesn't care. With no effective opposition it doesn't worry about the ballot box.

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  • Aka read- Politicians urged to take immediate action to "ENCOURAGE" GPs leaving NHS, so that it can be privatised.

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  • AlanAlmond

    There has been nothing about this in the main stream press. Does anyone else find this extremely odd?

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  • Tom: press the red button and start the process, before it is too late.
    There's no rescue package for general practice coming from STPs.
    The GPFV offers nothing but empty promises.
    The only big investment on the horizon is the £3 per head, which is being frittered away by CCGs on meaningless pet projects as I write.
    The College is toothless and complicit.
    Each year's contract negotiation gives us just enough to keep us going another year, while NHSE plots to take our autonomy and our professional status. It's not the disappointment that kills us, it is the hope.
    Don't worry about the Daily Mail. Our patients will still be there, and our reputation will recover.

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  • Dr Gorilla why are you finding this odd?
    Politician will not do anything to stop GP leaving NHS. Because this is exactly what they want. They need someone to blame for collapse of NHS & who else is easier target than us? . So they will do everything possible to make our life miserable and force us to leave NHS and then blame it on GP for collapse of NHS

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  • It's quite simple. Stop treating us like s**t and pay us more.

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  • Pradeep Bahalkar is quite right. As I said in a letter in this very journal in 2004,politicians of all parties want rid of the NHS but need a scapegoat for the bad news stories. It was obvious then and our leaders should hang their heads in shame.

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  • AlanAlmond

    I thought we had a free press in this country? Politicians don't directly control what appears in the news. Why isn't this in it? Is guenuinly no one interested beyond the readership of this GP focused online publication? do the editors of the papers, BBC and ITV think this isn't an issue of any interest or importance? Is it because it's seen as a 'Northern Ireland' issue not relevant to the NHS more widely? Or is it that the press is neither free nor impartial that just a lie? It makes me uneasy. Well done to PULSE for reporting this issue and shame on the wider media for its daily output of lazy, ill informed, myopic, rehashed, recycled journalism.

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  • agree with all of the comments above.particularly agree with guerilla gorilla-MSM isnt going to cover this story because it isnt part of the political narrative they are paid to prop up.likewise the story re largest rise in death rates in UK in 50 yrs sank without a trace.The "Ministry of Truth" hard at work here.As for myself I hope that GPC in NI goes ahead and withdraws from the NHS-like brexit it will be an irreversible moment and the cracks will only spread.

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