BMA Northern Ireland is calling on the incoming Northern Ireland Assembly and the next health minister to increase funding for general practice in line with England, or face the prospect of GP practice closures.
The call comes after the Department of Health in England announced the most significant and comprehensive package of proposals to support general practice in the country since 2004.
The proposals, which were announced following sustained lobbying by the BMA GPs committee in England, include:
- Recurrent spend in general practice to be increased by £2.4bn back to 10.4 per cent or more of NHS England's healthcare budget by 2020/21
- The introduction of a practice-resilience programme;
- a commitment to address rising indemnity costs and the need for an expansion of the workforce
- Initiatives to encourage GP retention
- support to reduce unnecessary burdens on general practice.
Responding to the NHS England announcement BMA NI GPs committee chair Tom Black called on the next mandate of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the new health minister to increase the funding for general practice in Northern Ireland in line with England 'as a matter of urgency'.
'While we are delighted for our colleagues in England at this funding news, primary care in Northern Ireland is still living with the very real and ever increasing threat of GP practices closing down as doctors retire and cannot be replaced.
'Funding in Northern Ireland for general practice is 6 per cent of the budget and we need this increased to at least 10 per cent if we are to rescue general practice,' said Dr Black.
'This issue is particularly acute in border counties, with 20 practices set to close in the coming months that could potentially leave 100,000 patients at risk of losing their local GP services.
'Although NIGPC welcomed recent funding from Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety as part of the new GP contract, this is simply not enough to address all of the issues around recruitment and retention of GPs.
'Workloads have reached saturation point over the past 10 years owing to this lack of investment in primary care.'
Delivery of care
Dr Black also called on the next Assembly to implement and fund the recently published GP Led Care Review.
'This review sets out the aspirations for the effective delivery of general practice,' he said.
'It is vital there is now active implementation of this plan, with the required investment. General practice in Northern Ireland is under funded compared with the rest of the UK.
'This situation needs to be reversed to safeguard the future of general practice.'
Priority four of BMA NI’s manifesto for the Northern Ireland Assembly Elections 2016 calls on all political parties to ensure that immediate additional investment is made in general practice.
Read the full manifesto
Read BMA NI's GP Strategy — General practice in Northern Ireland: The case for change
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