GPs will be asked to sign undated letters of resignation, as the Northern Irish GPC takes forward the plan English colleagues have scrapped.
It said this comes as the Northern Irish Government has failed to address GP concerns over rising workload and diminishing funding, with the situation ‘much worse’ than England.
Like English LMCs, the Northern Irish LMC conference voted earlier this year to canvas colleagues on resigning en masse unless the Government came up with a satisfactory rescue package for general practice within six months.
Northern Irish GP leaders have demanded:
- A rescue plan for collapsing practices and out-of-hours services;
- Immediate implementation of the recommendations of the working group of the GP-led primary care services;
- Full commitment to transforming the NHS in Northern Ireland into ‘the service the public needs’.
But NI GPC chair Dr Tom Black said this had not materialised and there was ‘an escalating crisis facing general practice in Northern Ireland; an ever increasing workload, a diminishing workforce, reduced funding and a failing and unsafe out of hours service’.
NI GPC will now be holding a series of roadshows to ‘gather opinion and gain consensus on action’.
IIt will ask GPs to sign and submit an undated resignation letter, with the understanding that once there is a ‘critical mass’ of members, it will move to mass resignation.
Dr Black said: ‘We, as a group, have worked hard on behalf of all GPs to persuade the Department of Health to make general practice a priority for investment.
‘However the urgent action we believe that needs to be taken by the Department to save general practice, for example by increasing the number of GP training places to 111 and increasing the funding for general practice, has just not happened.
‘Without these changes, general practice will collapse.’
The GPC in England last month decided against balloting members on mass resignations, claiming NHS England had agreed to roll out actions demanded in its Urgent Prescription for General Practice.
The GPC is also surveying English GP members asking ‘for their views on future negotiations with the Government’.
But Dr Black said that the situation in Northern Ireland is ‘much worse than the rest of the UK’.
He said: ‘In England, for example, the General Practice Forward View has pledged significant additional funding, we have not had the same level of commitment from the Government here’.
The GP Forward View, launched in April, has pledged an extra £2.4bn annual investment in general practice in England, although this is being rolled out through a series of programmes including hundreds of millinos will go towards extended opening in evenings and weekends.
RCGP Northern Ireland chair Dr John O’Kelly said: ‘We are deeply concerned that letters of resignation are being called for but understand the current feeling amongst the profession. At present we are working under such intense pressure to meet the increasing demand for services – we do not have enough GPs to deliver the services our patients need and deserve.
‘RCGPNI has been calling for action to address the significant issues facing general practice for many years but the response up to now has been disappointing and completely inadequate. We have warned of the potential crisis ahead if action was not taken and unfortunately that crisis is now a reality.’