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NI Government warned to take action as ‘almost half’ of GP trainees drop out before completion



Almost half of GP trainees in Northern Ireland expected to complete their training last year dropped out before completion, local GP leaders have said.

Speaking from this weekend’s annual regional LMCs conference, Northern Irish GPC chair Dr Tom Black said only 33 out of the 65 trainees expected to qualify into the profession in 2014 actually did so.

Dr Black, who called on the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety to bring in new strategies for the recruitment and retention of GPs, further warned that GP out-of-hours services are approaching ‘breaking point’ and are surviving only because of the ‘goodwill and professionalism of GPs’.

He also reiterated demands to plug a £33m funding gap to bring GP funding in Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK, which were first made in a BMA report out last month.

Dr Black said: ‘We estimate that £33 million recurrent funding is required to bring us up to par with the rest of the UK. Our out of hours services for one, are grossly underfunded and are rapidly reaching breaking point. The reality is that the system is surviving currently on the goodwill and professionalism of GPs and this is just not sustainable long term.’

He added: ‘We also need the department to look at the recruitment and retention of GPs. Older GPs are increasingly opting for early retirement, whilst at the other end of the spectrum there are not enough GPs being trained to meet demand in Northern Ireland. Of the 65 GPs due to complete their training in 2014, just 33 did so.

‘We intend to work with the department, Health and Social Care Board, Northern Ireland Medical and Dental Training Agency and School of Medicine to develop a campaign to attract medical students and junior doctors into general practice.’