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.’