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Practices to be asked to quit NHS in New Year

Exclusive GP leaders in Northern Ireland will be asking for practice resignations in January after receiving overwhelming support from GPs during a series of meetings around the country.

The chair of GPC Northern Ireland, Dr Tom Black, has told Pulse that the GPC is 'clear' that it has to go through with its plans in January, adding that whole practices would resign from the NHS under the plans.

The GPC is still working on its 'Plan B', which is likely to involve GPs leaving the NHS and charging patients directly for their services as currently happens in the Republic of Ireland.

At the latest GPs in crisis meeting in Fermanagh on the 29 November, 92% of those attending said they were willing to sign up to undated resignations, following similar levels of support seen in Belfast and Armagh.

But because GPs are contractors and not NHS employees, the next step would have to be to ask whole practices to resign their contract - something which GPC is now planning to do next month.

Dr Tom Black, GPC Northern Ireland chair, told Pulse: ‘It is becoming clear and evident from the support we have had we need to move forward in the New Year to ask for practice resignations.

‘I expect that to happen towards the end of January,’ he added.

Alternative contract structures are being worked out by a Plan B sub-committee who are looking at how general practice could work if not provided by the NHS.

Dr Black said: ‘The most likely option will be a service similar to that seen in Southern Ireland.'

The situation in Northern Ireland has reached a critical point in recent months with the threat of whole towns losing their GPs and out of hours services failing to provide proper cover.

General practice receives just 5.5% of the health budget – the lowest level anywhere in the UK.

Health Minister Michelle O’Neill announced radical plans for the overhaul of the health service in October, including proposals for practice-based pharmacists for every surgery as well as a named social worker, health visitor and district nurse.

But the 10-year plan based on the Bengoa review, which described the system as being at ‘breaking point’, has yet to be costed and no specific funding announcement has been made.

Dr Black said: ‘We’re still waiting for the Government to fund general practice along the lines of the GP Forward View.

‘We are expecting an offer within the next three months but we still haven’t had anything with a number on it,’ he added. ‘So we have no choice given the crisis in general practice but to go ahead with practice resignations at this point.’

Dr Black said GPs in the country were in the worst position for 50 years.

‘We have no alternative but to leave the NHS.’

The last two ‘GP in crisis’ meetings being held by the BMA in Northern Ireland will take place in the next fortnight.

What are GPs in England doing about mass resignations?

The GPC in England announced in August that it would not ballot members on potentially submitting undated resignations or industrial action after claiming that it has won concessions on workload from NHS England.

Instead of a ballot, the GPC this autumn surveyed members 'for their views on future negotiations with the Government’.

The GPC said GP 'reluctance' over the plan was also a reason for calling off plans, but Pulse has since revealed that some LMCs are drawing up explosive 'plan B' alternatives of their own.

Pulse's recent survey of 1,000 GPs also showed that half of GP partners are willing to resign the NHS and go private.


Readers' comments (40)

  • All other UK GPs should lend massive support to these brave trail-blazing N Ireland colleagues. This is now the only response to a government that gives £1 million to try to keep older GPs in service but is prepared to spend £369 million to refurbish Buckingham palace.If that doesn't make the more sleepy wake up nothing will.

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  • we do need to do this as a country wide thing rather than regional. might just finally get out point across about how desperate things are

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  • Will Simon Stevens and leadership of the BMA take notice.....or we will get usual lip walk...
    The reality is that a GP surgery is shutting its doors every 10 days on average and the closures will become daily within a year in England too. Soaring demand, cuts to social care, deteriorating workforce, increasingly complex workload and lack of funding has led to a toxic mix where existing GPs cannot wait to leave and young doctors will not join. The pressure on general practice has reached new heights and GPs are drowning. They can no longer cope and are forced into drastic action by closing.

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  • January is just too soon. I think patients and the DOH deserve and need some time to adjust, to come to terms with Insurance based or top up or co-payments.
    Much as this debacle is due to the DOH cutting % share to GP land by 50% from 11 to 5.5 % in 11 years with funding falling year on year,{ which to me , at any rate, is not a chance or happenstance event, but shows malice aforethought [ to quote Bond] }, the patients need time. Next April ie 2018 would be a realistic target to leave the NHS and have an alternative in its place.

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  • Dear All,
    As a monarchist i'd use a slightly different set of figures. Lets tsart by remembering the Mr Hunt has stated in public that he has been "penalising" GPs because of teh 2004 nGMS contract. The penalising has been in form of chronic disinvestment, share of NHS spend falling, ball park figures £8billlion in primary care each year. The 5 year FV WITH its Urgent Prescription top ups commit just under £300 million to general practice over next 5 years. Thats 0.00000000625% ( eight zeros after the decimal point) of the current NHS budget spent on GPs. Thats to save general practice.

    Tom Black is right, there is no alternative. Care costs money, someone somewhere has topay for what is demanded, if HMG won't who will?

    Paul C

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  • Dear Dr Anonymus at 10.13 am .
    NHSE & Government have had ample time. GP have been telling government for many years.
    What is going to change in 1 year? Government will throw some more peanuts in front of us just to show that they are doing something. They are never going to give anything substantial to restore funding to Primary care to appropriate level.
    Government actually wants us to leave NHS but they will never admit it openly, and that is why they are making our lives miserable and cutting down funding year after year.
    Sooner the better, ultimately people have to take responsibility for their health and start contributing directly.

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  • Patients have had years of warnings and dont care, someone has to blink first and grasp the nettle. Fannying around will not get us anywhere.Where is an English vote BMA!

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  • AH, most kind... to be, or not to be! That is a serious question that GP's have not put forward , because infact you are not only divided in opinion but still 'talking the talk'...undefined and undecided!

    Let's see you walk the walk! ...The Undiscovered Country!

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  • There's been too much talk and not enough action.Let's see if anything comes of this.The cynic in me says that nothing will change.

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  • makes sense as it will just bring the system into line with the republic of Ireland where health outcomes are similar to the UK and public satisfaction is high. can't blame them - they have been ignored for so long that they really have two choices - go bust due to lack of funding or plan B. they should not feel guilty. there is plenty of money for brexit, high speed railway, bbc, trident, football season passes etc but when it comes to primary care we are best placed and can manage !

    good luck and go for it - NI GPs have nothing to lose!

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