Commenting on the current situation in general practice and the imminent contract hand-back in Ballymena, Dr Alan Stout, BMA NI GP committee chair said, "As we have said many times general practice is under severe pressure and for some practices the only option is to hand back their contract. This is always a last resort. Unfortunately, despite repeated requests, there are no measures introduced to help ease pressures on practices and unfortunately when one collapses there is a knock-on affect on surrounding practices as patients are reallocated to them.
"We are aware of an imminent crisis in Ballymena, and this will now affect all practices in the area. Within weeks a practice will close leaving no GP for over three thousand patients. The Department of Health are required to provide care for these patients but it is no doubt it is a worrying time for patients as they will want to see continuity of care. In addition GPs cannot endlessly stretch the time and resources they have to deal with these crises, it is simply not safe for patients, GPs or practice staff.
"BMA has made it clear what needs to be done now to address these issues in the short term including prioritising access away from box ticking and target chasing, ensuring simple cashflow to practices so that they can pay bills and staff, ensuring that every patient in Northern Ireland is actually paid for in terms of GP cover, removing the huge personal expense and risk that all GPs here face in indemnity costs that our colleagues elsewhere do not have, and finally remove the disgraceful pension taxes that are forcing our experienced GPs out of practice."
Notes to editors
The BMA is a professional association and trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.