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Northern Ireland to set up working group on problems in general practice

Northern Ireland health minister Simon Hamilton has announced that the Government is setting up a working group to examine the problems facing general practice. 

Mr Hamilton said rising patient demand is resulting in practices handling 5.5 million more consultations a year than in 2004, and that this is ‘not sustainable’.

Representatives from the BMA and RCGP will be on the working group, which will make recommendations in February next year for short and long term measures to tackle the problems.

Mr Hamilton said: ’It’s clear that if we are to deal with the challenges of rising demand we must find more innovative and radical approaches to delivering services. The status quo is not sustainable.’

NIGPC chair Dr Tom Black said: ’Hopefully this group will address workload and workforce issues, as well as looking at how best GP federations in Northern Ireland can be used to address the crisis in primary care. We would also hope to see the pharmacists in practice scheme implemented as quickly as possible.’

Last month, the RCGP produced an action plan calling on the Government to increase the number of full-time equivalent GPs in Northern Ireland by 400 in the next five years, and for policies to reduce practice bureaucracy and free up GPs to develop innovative practice models.

In February, the BMA in Northern Ireland called for £33m a year in recurrent funding for to pay for extra GPs, more nurses and clerical staff, and improvements to premises.

Photo credit: Northern Ireland Executive