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GPs vote to explore partnership model alternatives

Northern Irish GP leaders passed a motion to explore alternatives to the partnership model at their annual LMCs conference on Saturday.

Votes were in favour for the motion proposed by Eastern LMC that ‘the present GP partnership model may no longer be the preferred choice for a significant number of GPs’ and that it is therefore ‘contributing to the present recruitment crisis’.

The conference called for an examination of alternative ways of being contracted to work in general practice as a way of boosting new recruits.

This includes proposals for newly qualified GPs to have the option to become associate or non-equity partners as an introductory step to signing up to a practice.

Meanwhile, a vote on whether to adopt the Scottish model of loans for premises was carried as a reference with delegates asking for more research into the options.

And in a series of motions on out-of-hours pressures, the conference heard that too many people are using it as an alternative to getting a GP appointment, calling as soon as the service opens, and that it needs to be re-established as an emergency service and better funded immediately to ensure its survival

BMA Northern Ireland GP committee chair Dr Alan Stout used his keynote speech to thank GPs for their ‘dedication, professionalism and commitment’.

He told delegates: ‘We have an entire health service that is under considerable strain both financially and from increasing need for services, failing to meet multiple targets, some high profile and some less so, but general practice continues to deliver and to exceed expectations.

‘The reason for this is the dedication, professionalism, commitment and hard work of all practices to try to manage their patients as best as possible and to push themselves hard to do so.’

But he stressed that general practice would need to adapt to survive as workforce figures continue to fall.

‘The pattern, the type and the commitment of GPs is changing, and we need to be very focused on this over the next few years. 

‘It is a changing workforce, with different dynamics and different wants and desires and we have to make sure that our model is adaptable enough to accommodate this.’ His message was reflected in many of the motions put forward at the meeting.

Dr Stout told the conference he intends to lobby the Department of Health for increased core funding to ‘ensure the practice unit is maintained and sustained’ and to do all he could to make sure that GP services across Northern Ireland ‘are maintained as general medical services’.

Key motions in full

Eastern LMC – That this conference accepts that the present GP Partnership model may no longer be the preferred choice for a significant number of GPs and is contributing to the present recruitment crisis. Conference instructs NIGPC to begin to examine alternative ways of being contracted to work in General Practice and therefore help recruitment to the profession. PASSED

Southern LMC – That this conference thinks newly-qualified GPs should have chances to become associate partners or non-equity partners as a way to introduce them to partnership. PASSED

Eastern LMC – That this conference demands that DoH define the function of the GP out-of-hours service, makes the public aware of its function, funds it adequately, and redesigns a service capable of fulfilling its function across the province. PASSED    

Source: BMA