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GPC NI calls for assurances independent contractor status will not be scrapped

The GPC in Northern Ireland has called on health minister Simon Hamilton to give assurances that the independent contractor model will not be scrapped as part of sweeping reforms he announced to improve health services.

Dr Tom Black, chair of GPC NI, has called for an urgent meeting with Mr Hamilton to find out more about the reforms.

Mr Hamilton wants to close the Health and Social Care Board – which currently commissions services for all six health Trusts in Northern Ireland – because he believes it is overly bureaucratic and inefficient.

He is setting up a panel of experts and a public consultation to look at ways of improving health and social care services.

But Dr Black has called for assurances that GP practices continue to be run as they are. 

He said: ’The BMA’s GP committee has asked for an early meeting with the minister to ensure that the position of GPs as independent contractors is maintained within these changes, as general practice is the foundation for much of the health service.

‘We look forward to responding to the consultation and would welcome the opportunity to be part of the panel of experts as we well placed to highlight the clinical issues facing our members.’

GP federations need extra funding for them to be fully operational, added Dr Black.

Mr Hamilton said: ’What I am signalling is the end to the current way we commission healthcare in Northern Ireland. It has not worked and is arguably never going to work in a small region like ours. I want to reduce bureaucracy and streamline structures.

’From conversations I’ve had with clinicians it is clear that many feel that our commissioning system doesn’t work. They don’t understand it, and it actually inhibits innovation.”

Mr Hamilton also pledged not to impose a new contract on junior doctors. He said: ’An imposed contract would be the worst possible outcome. I have sympathy for HM Government’s desire to create a seven-day NHS but it is essential that we work with our staff to achieve it.’