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At the heart of general practice since 1960

9. Dr Tom Black

Northern Ireland GPC chair

09 dr black, tom power50 2017 9

09 dr black, tom power50 2017 9

GPs in Northern Ireland could be – in a matter of months – working in completely private system.

And this startling change has been led by a ‘thran’ Derry GP who has rallied practices around him and asked them to submit undated resignations to force change.

Why? General practice in Northern Ireland is crumbling. Underfunded compared with the other three countries of the UK, it has seen whole towns, such as Portadown, potentially left with no GPs.

A rescue plan for general practice was agreed with ministers just before Christmas 2016, then was taken off the table following the complete collapseof the Northern Irish executive in January.

Dr Black has lead from the front, drawing up a Plan B that could see GPs charge patients directly for their services, as is the case in the Republic of Ireland. And now, after an election brought no stable government to Northern Ireland, Dr Black is following through with his plan, with 97% support from practices.

Dr Black tells Pulse his favourite moment over the past year was ‘the first roadshow in Belfast six months ago about the undated resignations where the venue was packed to the rafters and the atmosphere was electric’. 

Dr Black says that Northern Ireland’s GPs do not want to operate outside the health service, but something has to be done to protect the GP service, and at the moment that means resigning their NHS contracts.

Unfortunately for many within Northern Ireland, this will be his last year at the head of the Northern Ireland GPC. His will be big boots to fill.

Why influential

Has inspired a unity of purpose in very difficult circumstances

What others say

‘He provides inspirational leadership’

Random fact

He says his ‘only true talent’ is making raspberry jam

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