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Funding shift from hospitals to GPs ‘delayed’, says auditor general

The planned shift of funding from hospitals to primary care has run into delays, according to a report from Northern Ireland’s auditor general.

In 2011, the Northern Irish Government proposed shifting £83m from hospitals into primary and community care by 2015/16.

But an investigation into the management of the ‘Transforming Your Care Reform Programme’ found that, to date, only £65.4m has been reallocated.

Kieran Donnelly, comptroller and auditor general found the pace of change had not been ‘as swift as originally envisaged’ and the impact of the changes so far limited.

Under the five-year programme, designed to help the NHS cope with an ageing population living with multiple chronic diseases, the home was to become the ‘hub of health and social care services’.

But a slow start coupled with ongoing financial pressures has meant only £40m of the £148m estimated investment has been spent on the reforms, and only £28m of the predicted £130m savings has been realised.

RCGP Northern Ireland chair Dr Grainne Doran said they had welcomed the proposals in 2011 but had warned at the time the rollout would be ‘fatally flawed’ unless general practice was properly resourced.

She said: ‘General practice needs urgent support to make sure patients get the services they deserve.

‘We have been calling on the Government to increase funding for general practice and ensure that it receives 11% of healthcare funding.’

Dr Doran added that the limited pace of change highlighted in the report was ‘deeply disappointing’.

She said: ‘Political leaders must do the jobs they were elected to do and take action to save our health service.’

GPs in Northern Ireland are currently in a state of limbo after the collapse of the power-sharing Government.

And the BMA is collecting resignations from practices set to walk away from the NHS amid severe staff shortages and funding difficulties.