Nearly a third of GPs in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, plan to leave general practice within the next 18 months, a situation that the GPC warns has ‘caught us unawares’.
Western LMC says that around 12 of the 32 GPs currently working in Fermanagh are planning to quit, which may lead to the number of practices falling from 18 to 12.
Despite the region’s beauty there have been problems recruiting doctors to take over single handed rural practices.
Dr Martin McCloskey, the secretary of the Western LMC, said: ‘There are 18 practices in Fermanagh and I think they will be lucky if there are 12 left in the next 12 to 18 months.’
He said smaller practices are less attractive to younger GPs. ‘I think it’s a more precarious life, there’s more responsibility, there’s less peer support and more difficult to get time off for holidays.’
Some single-handed practices are amalgamating with bigger practices, said Dr McCloskey. ‘They are able to keep the buildings going, they have not centralised services.’
Northern Ireland GPC chair Tom Black said: ‘It has caught us unawares.
‘Twenty five per cent of GPs are over 55 years old. They are all retiring at the same time.’
The Health and Social Care Board is talking to GPs about a sustainable solution.
A spokeswoman said: ‘It is hoped that the discussions will lead to a model of care which provides both high quality clinical care and an attractive proposition for young newly qualified GPs to come and work in the rural Fermanagh area.’
Pulse campaigning for support for vulnerable practices
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Pulse has been pressing for immediate support for vulnerable practices across the UK since 2014 through its Stop Practice Closures campaign.
In Northern Ireland, a BMA report earlier this year found that around 75% of Northern Irish practices said they ‘are struggling’ and a further 10% reveal they are ‘unable to cope’.
Wales is suffering an acute crisis in GP recruitment, with health boards in the country now stepping in to help practices at risk of closure. GP Survival found that 20 practices handed their contract back in the last year, including five that closed.
In the previous five years, 33 practices had handed their contract back, including 17 closures.
Health boards in Walesand Scotland are increasingly having to take over the running of practices as many partners are choosing to hand their contracts over to trusts and an increasing number of GPs choose to become salaried employees.
In England, NHS England announced a new tranche of £16 million of funding to support struggling practices.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt first announced the fund in his ‘new deal’ last year, and NHS England said in December that practices with poor CQC ratings or higher-than-average referrals and prescribing would be prioritised.