The chair of BMA Northern Ireland’s GP Committee has asked for urgent help for the profession, which he said was ‘in real trouble’.
Dr Alan Stout said the political vacuum in Northern Ireland has meant it ‘is getting harder and harder to identify any central help whatsoever’ with general practice now ‘left without any sort of political accountability or leadership.
‘It is a complete disgrace, with us left feeling like we are carrying all of the responsibility and the accountability for a failing system,’ he told delegates at the Northern Irish LMCs conference this morning.
GPs are having to deal with patients who are ‘frustrated and upset’ in the knowledge that ‘they deserve a better service’ but GPs are ‘genuinely doing our very best’.
‘We cannot continue to be blamed for issues in the wider health system that always end up back at our door,’ said Dr Stout.
He continued: ‘We are in real trouble. We don’t have the GP’s, we don’t have the staff, we don’t have the funding. Demand is huge and costs are going through the roof. We have practices closing left right and centre.
‘I never expected part of my job as committee chair to have some of our really good and experienced GPs on the phone in tears; simply feeling that they were not able to carry on.
‘In practice we do more than our best every single day, but we all are burnt out and need help. As representatives we also do more than our best. We have brought options, solutions and offers to the Department and they have been ignored or rejected.’
Solutions proposed by BMA NI to health officials include a cost-neutral contract freeze, funding GP indemnity costs to bring GPs in Northern Ireland in line with counterparts in the rest of the UK and a full roll out of multi-disciplinary teams across Northern Ireland.
On a more positive note, Dr Stout ended his speech by saying GPs must now help themselves.
‘The only ones that can help now are ourselves. I am forever the optimist and the only people that give me confidence right now are the people in this room and the GPs and their teams across Northern Ireland who are keeping going in the face of immense challenges.’
NI LMCs will vote on motions including a summit with ministers over the ‘collapse’ of practices’ and stopping patients from moving practices at a time of crisis, among other proposals.
The NI crisis team was recently working with 22 GP practices that were at risk of closure.