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Retired GPs to form ‘rescue teams’ to save stricken practices

Exclusive The BMA in Northern Ireland is putting together ‘rescue teams’ of retired GPs to save practices on the brink of collapse.

Dr Tom Black, NI GPC chair, said the GPC knew of several large urban practices planning to hand their contracts back in April as the ‘sums no longer added up’ for partners.

This comes as the BMA is still collecting undated resignations from practices after the majority of GPs voted to walk away from the NHS.

Pulse has reported a number of areas in Northern Ireland that are particularly struggling, including Portadown and Fermanagh.

A lack of action from the Department of Health has left the BMA having to come up with solutions for practices who feel they are left with no choice, Dr Black said.

He told Pulse: ‘There are GPs in Northern Ireland in their late 50s who are doing their sums and working out how much will it cost in staff redundancy and premises and they’re planning to hand back contracts on the 1 April.’

Plans include using retired GPs in addition to other primary care staff to support practices who are about to fold, due to there being no spare or locum GPs.

Dr Black said: ‘We are setting up rescue teams – we have a small working group looking at the costings of bringing in two or three GPs, a practice manager and a pharmacist. Practices never collapse fully and we can move these GPs and pharmacists in to stabilise them.

In a recent newsletter, Dr Black urged struggling practices to approach the BMA for help before it was too late.

‘We are looking at retired GPs who would do this for a short time. We know practices who want to hand their contract in, who have missing partners. If you are down one partner you will find it hard, if you have two you will collapse.’

The BMA is currently bidding for Department of Health funding to pay for the scheme.

The political stalemate in Northern Ireland has left a GP rescue plan, which was agreed in December, languishing with no funding.

Westminster has imposed a £10.6bn budget, which includes a 5.4% uplift for health, providing some temporary stability after power-sharing talks broke down.

There has also been discussion of a possible £50m extra for health as the first part of the confidence and supply deal between the UK Government and the DUP.

The BMA’s plan to collect undated resignation involve the so-called ’Plan B’ for an alternative service – details of which are not yet being made public, but could involve practices directly charging patients – that will kick in once 60% of resignations are collected.