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GP training in Northern Ireland receives a boost

Health minister Simon Hamilton has announced there will be at least 20 extra training places in Northern Ireland after investing £1.2m. 

The 20 new places are specifically for GPs at Queen’s University Belfast, and there will also be 15 extra places on a foundation programme which will allows doctors to choose a specialty or general practice.

Mr Hamilton said the investment in the GP places was the ‘most significant in GP training in over a decade.’

Queen’s University Belfast will now train 85 GPs a year instead of 65.

The BMA and RCGP welcomed the announcements, although both argue that the increase in GP-specific places is not high enough.

The RCGP had called for an extra 46 GP training places as part of its Delivering change for general practice strategy, published in September.

RCGP NI chair Dr John O’Kelly said: ‘We are delighted that the health minister has followed our recommendations and decided to resource 20 additional GP training places. Although the additional training places are very welcome, they do not fully meet the gap that has been identified within the GP workforce, and in particular within rural areas.

’It is essential that the Government continues to invest in general practice to address the ongoing workforce shortage and other related pressures.’

GPCNI chair Dr Tom Black said: ‘We face difficulties with attracting GPs to work in rural areas, an ever increasing workload both in the number of patients we see and the increasing complexity of the health problems we are dealing with. By increasing the number of training places we have taken a positive step towards alleviating pressures.’

He said he hoped there would be further increases in GP training numbers in future.

Picture credit: Northern Ireland Executive