General practice in Northern Ireland is ‘on the brink’ as the process for collecting undated resignation letters from GPs begins.
The BMA Northern Ireland GPs committee has voted to start gathering undated letters of resignation from the country’s GPs.
The move comes after efforts by the Northern Ireland Government to introduce a financial and legislative rescue package for general practice stalled.
NIGPC chair Tom Black said his committee had been forced into the deeply regrettable position of collecting resignations owing to the continued inaction of ministers at Stormont.
He said: ‘General practice is on the brink and we feel we have no alternative to proceed with collecting undated resignations from our members.
‘The work of the Northern Ireland Government may have stalled, but the need to provide safe and efficient healthcare to patients has not stalled.
'General practice is being delivered under unsustainable conditions that we can no longer tolerate.’
Moves toward submitting undated resignations began in March last year, following a motion at the BMA Northern Ireland local medical committees conference, demanding action if ministers did not implement measures to support GPs within six months.
Lack of clarity
NIGPC had urged ministers to implement a range of steps, including investment in general practice equivalent to 10 per cent of the Northern Ireland health budget and increased training and recruitment of GPs.
Pressure was stepped up following a series of NIGPC roadshows last autumn, which saw an overwhelming number of GPs back taking action through undated resignations, unless plans to save general practice were implemented.
Dr Black said that despite a rescue package being agreed in principle last December, inaction and a lack of clarity resulting from the breakdown in the Northern Ireland Assembly’s power-sharing agreement this month had left doctors with little choice.
He said: ‘We have no choice but to act. While we welcomed the proposals outlined in health minister Michelle O’Neill’s Health and Well-being 2026 plan and in the GP-led review, momentum has now been lost.
‘We have received no clarity about the funding for either these initiatives or a rescue plan for general practice and we now feel we have to take action.’
NIGPC has requested an urgent meeting with the health minister to discuss the issue.
Addressed to a GPs' commissioning body, signed letters of resignation would be put at the disposal of the BMA, which can then decide if and when to send them.
Find out more about the situation in Northern Ireland and the undated resignations process
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