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At the heart of general practice since 1960

One in six practices wrote to Northern Ireland health board over workload concerns

One in six GP practices in Northern Ireland wrote to the Health and Social Care Board in 2016 to raise concerns about workforce pressures, the minister of health has told the Assembly.

In a response to a written question from West Tyrone MLA Daniel McCrossan, Michelle O'Neill said that 57 practices had written to the Board in the past 12 months about fears for staffing levels, increasing list sizes and the future sustainability of their surgeries.

Two practices – including the surgery of the new RCGP Northern Ireland chair Dr Grainne Doran - were so concerned about the worsening situation they wrote directly to the Department of Health.

Dr Doran explained they felt they had contact the Government after facing a potential 3.8% increase in practice size in a matter of weeks at the practice in the Bangor Health Centre.

‘Every new patient brings a workload associated with gaining adequate knowledge of their past medical history/drugs/existing co-morbidity/allergies/special needs etc in order to safely manage their care,’ she said

‘This requires considerable clinical and administrative time for practices already working at full capacity.

‘The practice felt the issue was not a single issue but part of a growing concern across Northern Ireland and were unable to let the situation drift without bringing it to the Minister's attention.’

Dr Doran added that GPs across Northern Ireland were operating at maximum capacity.

‘GPs’ primary concern is the safe care to their current patient population and a sudden marked growth to GP list sizes would produce a highly unsafe level of workload.

‘This brings unacceptable anticipation of risk for current patient lists and any future patients.’

It comes as GPs in Northern Ireland prepare to tender their resignations following a series of crisis meetings by the BMA.

The GPC is planning to go ahead with asking GP practices across Northern Ireland to resign their contracts unless a rescue package can be agreed with the Department of Health in time for the next GPC meeting on 25 January.

To prevent the collapse of general practice, the GPC is calling for Ms O'Neill to invest 10% of the healthcare budget on a safe, sustainable GP service.

Readers' comments (5)

  • You see GPC? The wee GPs across the sea have significant balls to fight for themselves. Let's all snuggle down quietly in England and ask for more work and worse conditions (show just how resilient we all are compared to everyone else - and we gave them Brexit too!).

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  • Every GP in the uk should write to every newspaper every mp and every peer with copies displayed in every waiting room
    The evil antics of this lying corrupt government should be exposed
    Then follow the same with every dr in the uk hospital and all
    The present situation is intolerable and truth needs to be spoken to the electorate to get this appalling misgovernment to listen
    This is the only way to bypass the sick evil culture of bullying in the NHS
    This profound disgrace of a government cannot be allowed to continue

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  • Mr Mephisto

    According to a press release form the Health Minister last week the “Portadown problem” has been resolved. Let’s see what the minister means by “resolved”. In political terms it has been “resolved” as the media spotlight has moved on for now. Let’s hope that “resolved” means real resources and not political “chaff” deployed in a cynical manner to divert the gaze of the on looking media. Only time will tell. By the time the issue does come around again the minister will probably be in a more senior post and the “Portadown problem” will be someone else’s political headache.

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  • Mr Mephisto

    Resources, resources, resources.
    Put your money where your mouth is minister and give us a fair share of the NHS budget.
    Currently General Practice gets less than a 5% share of the Health Budget in Northern Ireland – it has been bled white over the past 10 years whilst secondary care has been stuffed full of cash and resources. There are now 50% more hospital consultants than GP’s in Northern Ireland – to quote Simon Stevens that does not make sense in anyone’s world.

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  • There is no point writing to the DOH. How can it make sense to write to people who have willfully, deliberately, maliciously cut funding by 50% from 11 to 5.5% % of NHS share to GPs. In June out of 72 million extra to the NHS, they gave GP land 800000.
    They can happily spend 500 odd million burning pellets.
    The answer to it is perhaps not to resign but to change the Contract from list based to appointment based, with the GPCNI defining safety.
    So, we will provide x number of appointments for y pounds.
    Having experienced both the USA and Eire, I confess I hate totally private medicine. The NHS is wonderful, really, and we can protect it without being subjugate to a John wane Contract.
    Even co-payments [ so many nations successfully use this] are better than the Eire model.
    Perhaps I love the NHS inordinately, but not as cheap and abused labour, but a better negotiated Contract.

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