GP practices in Northern Ireland have faced a decrease in investment compared to last year, despite the BMA warning they are experiencing ‘spiralling costs and rocketing inflation’.
A report published by the Department of Health showed that in 2022/23, the total investment in general practice, including the reimbursement of drugs dispensed, was £374,775m.
Compared to the previous year, this equates to a decrease of 7% in real terms, the report said.
It added: ‘General practice played a key role in the response to the Covid-19 pandemic during 2020/21 and 2021/22. This is reflected in higher levels of investment during that period.
‘In 2022/23, in response to the recommendation in the report of the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration (DDRB), a 4.5% uplift was applied for GP pay and practice staff expenses and a 3.0% uplift for other expenses. This represents an investment of £10,866m.’
BMA’s Northern Ireland GPC chair Dr Alan Stout said that the decrease in investment comes at a time when practices are facing spiralling costs, rocketing inflation and a huge increase in the need for appointments.
He said: ‘At a time of absolute crisis in general practice, these figures give unambiguous evidence of one of the reasons for this crisis.
‘Right across Northern Ireland GP practices are facing spiralling costs, rocketing inflation, a huge increase in the need for appointments and ever-increasing complexity and yet we see a real time reduction in funding to general practice.
‘It is astonishing to see it clearly laid out that we are delivering so much while facing a real terms decrease in funding of 6.92%.’
He also said it is a ‘total disgrace’ that the independent pay review body recommended pay uplift of 6% for this year is not being paid in Northern Ireland, as in July, the BMA was told there was no funding for it to be awarded.
Dr Stout said: ‘Practice staff and GPs in Northern Ireland are no less deserving than those in England.
‘The obligation is on any future government and on our own Department to pay for the services that people need and expect, and they are simply failing to do this.’
Last month, in an exclusive interview with Pulse, Dr Stout said that GPs in Northern Ireland could walk away from their NHS contract and come up with an ‘alternative option’ if the problems facing the profession are not solved.
In June, Pulse reported that the new budget for Northern Ireland could mean millions of pounds worth of cuts to GP funding.
And last month, the country’s Department of Health confirmed that of the 121 funded GP training places for this year, only 99 have been filled.