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85% of Northern Irish practices are struggling

BMA reveals the realities for general practice in Northern Ireland

Around 75% of Northern Irish practices said they ‘are struggling’ and a further 10% reveal they are ‘unable to cope’, a BMA report has found, with GP leaders warning that we have ’passed the sticking plaster stage’.

The report - called General Practice in Crisis - also reveals that demand has rocketed, with a 66% increase in patient contacts between 2003/04 to 2013/14.

The report stresses that smaller rural practices are the most affected, with 75% of practices in County Fermanagh at risk of closure.

The Northern Ireland GPC is putting forward a rescue plan in order to explore the situation in greater depth to put pressure on the DH and other bodies.

The report also revealed that:

  • Administrative workload processed rose by 115% and lab tests performed per patient increased by 216% between 2003/04 and 2013/14;
  • The overall vacancy rate was 14%, with struggling practices closer to 27%;
  • 25% of GPs are of retirement age;
  • 56% say that they experience difficultly when applying for annual leave;
  • 76% say that there work life balance is affected.

Dr Tom Black, chair of the NI GPC, said: ‘For now I would say that I would be concerned that we could lose 20 practices through closure in Northern Ireland this year out of a total of 349. This problem will be particularly severe in rural and border areas and I would expect more than half of the practices in Co Fermanagh to close in the next 5 years.

’The background to this is that Northern Ireland has had chronic underfunding in general practice for the last 10 years and we now have the highest workload, the smallest GP workforce per capita and the lowest funding of any of the four UK countries.’


Readers' comments (1)

  • Mr Mephisto

    Unfortunately we seem to have a case of “meet the new boss – same as the old boss”. Our new Health Minister has decided to launch her new brief with the standard “something must be done about waiting lists”. She has obviously learnt nothing from her predecessors. Ploughing all of your resources into secondary care whilst starving primary care has failed to work up until now – why does she think it will work this time around? As the saying goes doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome is just plain stupid. Waiting lists will be a relatively minor problem once general practice collapses and vast tracts of the country end up un-doctored. Within five years there will be no doctors in any of the rural border areas including in the ministers own constituency. Unless Professor Bengoa and his new commission are allowed to make the changes that must be made to unbalanced “secondary care above all” system we are doomed and the assembly will have failed in the primary role of government- providing health care for its people.

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