Crisis-hit GPs in Northern Ireland have welcomed a temporary suspension of the profession’s performance payment system, but have warned more support is needed.
Ministers at the Department of Health have agreed to halt the QOF (quality and outcomes framework) in recognition of the immense pressures facing general practice services in the country. It follows similar moves in Wales.
The suspension comes one month after the BMA Northern Ireland GPs committee voted to proceed with gathering undated resignations from GPs across Northern Ireland after the DH failed to announce a rescue package for general practice.
The decision means that practices will now be able to select payment based on their actual performance against QOF or upon their average performance against the framework over the previous two years.
BMA NI GPs committee chair Tom Black said the suspension was an important measure that would alleviate ongoing pressures faced by the sector, but added that ministers needed to go further to address the crisis in primary care.
He said: ‘While we are grateful that this suspension will go some way to free up GPs to spend more time with patients, it is only a temporary measure and will not address the systemic problems in primary care.
‘Any opportunity to reduce the bureaucratic burden on general practice should be implemented with the greatest of urgency, particularly in the backdrop of a collapsed Assembly and no meaningful political will to address the crisis in general practice.
‘It is in these unacceptable circumstances that general practice is attempting to deliver for patients, and why NIGPC has voted to progress with collecting undated resignations from its members.’
General practice in Northern Ireland has been described as being on the brink owing to long-standing pressures posed by under-funding, demand and staffing shortfalls.
GPs endorsed calls to submit undated letters of resignation after Stormont failed to implement a rescue package for the sector, a situation which was compounded by the breakdown in the Northern Ireland Assembly’s power-sharing agreement last month.
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