GPs in Northern Ireland will receive funding to implement multidisciplinary teams in practices as part of a £15m cash injection.
The Northern Ireland Department of Health has earmarked £5m for multidisciplinary teams working, which will initially be trialled in two federations covering about 200,000 patients.
There is no indication what the extra £10m for general practice will be used for, but the Northern Ireland BMA GP Committee said that negotiations on the 2018/19 contract would be finalised soon.
The funding is part of the £1bn promised by the UK Conservative government to Northern Ireland following its confidence and supply deal with the DUP.
A statement from the Department of Health said it is hoped that success across the multidisciplinary pilot areas will lead to the initiative being extended to GP practices across the province.
The plans build on work to put a pharmacist in every practice with practice-based physiotherapists, mental health specialists and social workers being recruited to help take pressure off GPs.
The BMA is keen to see extra funding for rescue teams for struggling practices and more funding for practices in rural areas who have been hit particularly hard by recruitment and retention problems.
GPs in Northern Ireland have been hit particularly hard by historic underfunding and recruitment and retention problems with practices closing across the region.
In an unprecedented move in January 2017, GPs voted to walk away from the NHS with the GPC collecting undated resignations that would be triggered when they hit 60% of all practices in the province. However, these plans have cooled recently.
Placing pharmacists in general practice has proved successful to date with the fourth wave of the programme starting this summer by which point there will be a pharmacist in a third of practices.
‘We have a very successful model with the pharmacists who are employed by federations and have had a significant impact on GP workload,’ said Dr Tom Black, chair of the Northern Ireland GPC.
The details for multidisciplinary teams are not yet worked out but it is likely to be along similar lines, he added.
‘If we don’t have enough GPs, we should be able to spread the work out around other members of the multidisciplinary team.’
Under the deal struck by the Conservatives and DUP, £1bn in additional funding was promised for Northern Ireland, £200m of which was earmarked for health, £50m for mental health services over five years and £100m to address immediate pressures in health and education.
Other projects announced by the Department include up to £30m for reforming community and hospital services, including mental health and pharmacy and £30m for reducing hospital waiting times.