GPs in Belfast have overwhelmingly backed plans threatening mass resignation following a crisis meeting.
Over 200 GPs attended the BMA Northern Ireland GPC (general practitioners committee) meeting on Tuesday, where 97% said they would support signing undated resignation letters if the Government fails to address the funding and staffing crisis facing general practice.
The backing follows an initial motion taken at an LMC meeting in March, in which doctors pledged to take action if Stormont ministers failed to implement a range of support measures for primary care within six months.
Northern Ireland GPC chair Tom Black said the extent of members’ support for the move was testament to the severity of the situation facing both doctors and patients.
He said: ‘We obviously knew things were bad in general practice but we didn’t realise things were that bad. The turnout tonight shows how much pressure we are under.
‘What we have heard tonight are the very issues we have been flagging up in general practice for many months now and unfortunately it looks like it’s crunch time.
‘While there were some positive announcements by Minister O’Neill today [25 October 2016] as part of her Health and Wellbeing plans, until we have greater clarity about the funding for these initiatives we need to move forward with our own plans.’
A BMA report, General practice in crisis – a report on primary care in Northern Ireland (PDF), reveals that many of the country’s 345 practices face closure as a result of chronic under staffing and funding as well as overwhelming patient demand.
Doctors have called on Northern Ireland’s government to adopt a range of measures designed to alleviate pressures and prevent a collapse of general practice services.
These include an agreed national standard on safe patient numbers, a dedicated fund for stabilising practices at risk of closure and credible plans to increase recruitment.
Tuesday’s meeting was the first of a series of five to be held across the country, with remaining Northern Ireland GPs expected to have their say over resignation plans in the next few weeks.
If implemented, an action of undated resignation would see GPs provide letters to the BMA, which the association would then be in a position to date and send to the relevant commissioning body.
Read more about the crisis in general practice in Northern Ireland
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