The Northern Ireland BMA GP Committee has voted in favour of a major renegotiation of the GP contract for next year, outside of the normal cycle for talks, to help practices stave off closures.
Pulse understands negotiations with the Department of Health will begin today (Wednesday).
No talks had been planned for a major renegotiation, but the Northern Ireland GPC said that a new contract was needed, with the chair of the committee telling Pulse that this one ‘is not working’.
Last month, Northern Ireland GPC chair Dr Alan 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.
This week, Dr Stout told Pulse: ‘There was a motion that went to our last NI GPC meeting, which was mandating us to enter negotiations with the department on a new contract, a different contract altogether.
‘Because this one just is not working. It’s not allowing practices to actually do what practices need to do to stay open.’
He added: ‘The debate at the meeting made it clear that the situation for GPs in Northern Ireland has to change in order to protect the future of general practice.
‘We have therefore informed the Department of Health that we wish to renegotiate the contract and have begun the necessary steps to prepare for this.
‘We are more than willing to work with them to develop a way of working that meets GPs needs, the Department’s needs and delivers the best possible service for patients in Northern Ireland.’
It comes as the BMA NI has published its ‘safe working’ guidance for GPs, which includes recommendations around controlling workload, redirecting patients to other services, moving to 15-minute appointments and considering formal list closures.
The guidance said: ‘We strongly recommend practices take immediate measures to move to 15-minute appointments. Most practices still provide care at 10-minute intervals.
‘This includes patient note-keeping and other non-patient facing clinical tasks between seeing patients.
‘Without increasing the total time spent on consulting in a day, GPs can preserve quality of care by moving to 15-minute appointments.
‘We recommend that no more than three hours per session is spent in consultation with patients to allow adequate time for clinical administrative tasks.
‘Within these limits, adequate rest breaks must be taken. Extending sessions beyond this time risks harm to patient and clinician.
‘Increasing appointment lengths to 15 minutes would mean a reduction in the absolute number of appointments per session to safe levels for clinicians and patients.’
The BMA NI recently published its ‘plan to save general practice’ which summarises the policies it has been repeatedly calling for.
In an exclusive interview with Pulse earlier this month, Dr Stout discussed the country’s pressing issues, including its lack of political leadership.
The motion in full:
- GMS solutions/next steps
To discuss: The following motion was received from the four NI LMCs
The Northern Ireland Local Medical Committees on behalf of our colleagues ask NIGPC to commence immediately planning and negotiating with the Department of Health /SPPG about a “Plan B” option around the GMS contract for the year commencing 2024
Source: BMA NI