This site is intended for health professionals only

Use Theresa May’s £200m to save general practice, NI leaders told

A GP rescue deal for Northern Ireland should be funded from the Government’s £1bn deal with the DUP, the BMA says.

Health is to receive £200m under the confidence-and-supply arrangement for the 10 DUP MPs to back Prime Minister Teresa May’s minority government.

Northern Ireland GPC chair Dr Tom Black said the GP rescue plan – which was signed off in December shortly before the collapse of the power sharing government – should be a priority.

This comes as general practice in Northern Ireland is on a precipice, with the BMA collecting undated resignations after GPs voted to walk away from the NHS.

Dr Black told Pulse: ‘We have arranged to meet the permanent secretary this week to press our case.

‘The alternative is the complete collapse of general practice.’

BMA Northern Ireland council chair Dr John D Woods said it was vital that the additional funding for health was spent addressing long-term sustainability and not just used as a ‘quick fix’.

He said: ‘There are a number of priority areas that need tackled urgently; the crisis in general practice has been well documented and the BMA has made it clear that a rescue package is needed now.

‘We also need to take steps now to address the growing shortage of doctors across Northern Ireland in order to meet population needs.’

In response, officials in Scotland and Wales called for a fair deal for health funding.

The Scottish government said they would launch a formal dispute unless a fair deal was reached across the UK

In a letter to the Treasury, Scottish finance secretary Derek Mackay, said the ‘deal prioritises expenditure in Northern Ireland at the cost of all other parts of the UK and leaves Scotland almost £3bn worse off’ than it would have been had funding been allocated via established formula.

BMA Scotland chair Dr Peter Bennie said: ‘As demands on Scotland’s NHS increase year on year, staff and financial resources in the health service are simply failing to keep pace.

‘Regardless of where the Scottish Government gets the money, the funding gap in Scotland’s NHS needs to be closed as a matter of urgency if we are to have a health service that is capable of meeting the needs of patients.’

Welsh health secretary Vaughan Gething meanwhile called for the removal of the pay cap so NHS Wales staff get a pay uplift above 1%, citing the £1bn ‘found’ by the Government to ’effectively end austerity in Northern Ireland’.

General practice on the brink

General practice in Northern Ireland is in crisis due to chronic underfunding and severe workforce shortages. It is estimated that 20 practices may fail this year.

A rescue package was agreed in December 2016 but the collapse of the power-sharing government means no funding in place.

The BMA is collecting undated resignations from practices after the Government failed to meet their demands for saving general practice.

‘The GPC’s Plan B’, if instated, would see GPs walk away from the NHS and charge for services.

Salt in the wound came in the form of news last month that £1m has been removed from QOF funding for 2017/18 due to a ‘statistical quirk’.

And last week, GPC passed a motion that NI GPs would be advised to concentrate on core workload only.