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GPs go forth

Winter fund worth £2m may not be used up 'due to lack of GPs'

GPs have been given millions to keep patients out of hospital this winter, but now the BMA has warned workforce problems could see it go unused.

Northern Ireland NHS leaders have made a fund worth £1.4m available to GP practices to put on extra clinics and offer additional appointments, alongside an £850,000 injection of winter funding for GP out-of-hours servives.

However, the BMA's GP Committee said practices were already running 'at full capacity' and they were struggling to find locums to do any extra work.

Instead, Northern Irish GPs have warned they may be forced to cut opening hours and turn patients away this winter, sending them straight to hospital.

Northern Ireland GPC chair Dr Alan Stout said: ‘The extra funding gives us two options, the first is we can get existing staff to run extra surgeries, say in the evening, or we can bring in extra staff. But we just can’t get locums and GPs are already working at full capacity – most are working into the evening now anyway.’

Dr Stout said that GPs were working hard to try to make use of the extra funding but there was only so much they could do and it was likely it would not all be spent.

‘Year on year it is becoming more and more difficult. We have been fortunate that we have not had a bad flu season for a number of years but if we get a bad flu it will be really difficult,' he added.

Under the scheme, which runs until March, practices receive funding for setting up additional clinics with the main aim of keeping patients out of hospital.

The money is part of a £7m pot the Department of Health has made available for dealing with winter pressures throughout the health service in Northern Ireland.

Dr Stout said the GPC was discussing other options to relieve the pressure on practices, including groups of practices joining together to provide a home visiting service to keep more GPs in the surgery, as well as GP hubs to deal with on-the-day demand.

‘None of these ideas gives a magic solution but all play a part in helping to free up capacity,’ he said.

The BMA is in the process of collecting undated resignations from practices, after GPs unanimously voted to walk away from the NHS after years of severe underfunding.

RCGP figures suggest by 2020 Northern Ireland will have a shortfall of more than 300 GPs.

CCGs across England are also hoping GP practices will put on extra shifts to reduce A&E pressure, injecting hundreds of millions.


Readers' comments (6)



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  • Fewer GP's and GP practices- the CQC have to do MORE FREQUENT visits to justify their existence and breathe our air!

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  • Well well! Depriving Primary Care of funds put by to help this winter will certainly help with recruitment won’t it!

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  • Vinci Ho

    This demonstrates the definition of resources vividly:
    (1) Time
    (2) Expertise
    (3) Manpower
    (4) Money
    One for all , all for one , all have to be present to deliver.
    Unfortunately, a short-sighted and shallow government with its health secretary can never grasp hold of this concept.

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  • AlanAlmond

    All I see on offer for GPs from the NHS delicatessen are different varieties of shit sandwich. Perhaps it’s not surprising that folk are politely declining the offer to have more of these paid for, but are instead deciding to get themselves something a little more palatable from the shop next door. We don’t need the government offering to pay for more shit sandwiches..we need some prawns maybe or some cheese (for the vegetarians)

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  • Closing the barn door after the horse has bolted.

    Limited training numbers for years now reaping the rewards.

    Also the reason they struggle to get locums is they have been paying the same rate for the last 15 years. Anyone with wit has left.
    Locum rate is 20% higher elsewhere in UK.

    0 Sympathy.

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