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At the heart of general practice since 1960

44. Dr Tom Black

Northern Ireland champion

The past 18 months have certainly been an interesting time for general practice in Northern Ireland.

The BMA’s Northern Ireland GP Committee’s efforts in collecting resignations from GPs – with the threat to take NI general practice out of the NHS if rescue measures for the profession were not forthcoming – were thrown off course when the Northern Ireland’s Government collapsed in early 2017.

Suddenly the committee had no health minister to whom to hand its resignations. However, led by its chair Dr Tom Black, the NI GPC has been able to make progress.

Despite the legislative vaccum, Dr Black and colleagues have worked with civil servants to help GP practices and halt a tide of closures.

During the past 12 months, GPs have secured two significant investments from the Northern Ireland Department of Health, totalling more than £30m, earmarked for multidisciplinary team working and contract changes.

In addition, practices have, with the GPC’s advice, introduced workload optimisation measures, which Dr Black says have helped GPs ‘own the problem’ of demand management.

As for the future, Dr Black is intending to stand in elections for NI BMA Council chair – he is currently deputy chair.

He says ‘managing demand is the key to the survival of general practice’.

As a result, his to-do list includes developing multidisciplinary teams – to include roles such as musculoskeletal specialists, mental health workers and care navigators – ‘so that GPs only have to supervise work and not actually deliver everything that happens’.

‘If no one wants to be a GP then we have to provide a service that isn’t reliant on so many GPs,’ he says.

Why influential: The leader of the pack of GPs in Northern Ireland

What others say: ‘Driven, smooth-talking charmer’

Random fact: He says ‘every job seems easy’ after working a summer job on Texas building sites in 40-plus degree heat

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