GP federations in Down and Derry/Londonderry have been announced as the first sites for the rollout of a multi-million pound investment in multi-disciplinary teams to bolster capacity in Northern Ireland general practice.
The scheme, which will see the establishment of practice-based physiotherapists, mental health specialists and social workers in GP practices, was first announced in May as part of a £15 million transformation fund for primary care.
It also involves additional investment in primary care nursing staff and follows a programme to embed practice-based pharmacists throughout Northern Ireland.
The extra funding will cover around 200 posts across the two federations selected for the first phase of the project.
Down GP Federation area covers around 75,000 patients and Derry GP Federation area covers in the region of 200,000 patients.
The next phase of the roll out will include West Belfast, a statement from the Department of Health announced.
It comes after Dr Tom Black, chair of the BMA Northern Ireland GP Committee, told Pulse that the recent investment in primary care may be enough to stave off the threat of GPs walking away from the NHS altogether.
GPs in Northern Ireland have been hit particularly hard by historic underfunding and recruitment and retention problems with practices closing across the region and in January 2017, had voted to start collecting undated resignations that would be triggered when they hit 60% of all practices in the province.
The Department’s Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly today said: ‘I look forward to MDTs being extended to other GP federations in the years ahead.
‘By bringing in new professional roles to work alongside and support GPs and nurses, we can really improve care in communities and neighbourhoods.’
Dr Black said that the pace of the roll out, to some extent was reliant on the political situation.
‘We have a third federation area in Belfast as reserve that we hope to see funded later this year rapidly moving on to the other 14 federations as funds are made available.
‘To some extent this depends on the Assembly being in place.
‘We need to implement the transformation quickly if we’re to save general practice and create the changes needed across all of the health service in Northern Ireland.’