General practitioner Northern Ireland

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Invoke emergency measures, demand GPs

Patients in GP waiting room

GP leaders in Northern Ireland have renewed calls for the devolved Government to implement emergency measures to save general practice.

It comes as the Northern Ireland Department of Health announced this week that a GP contractor had finally been recruited to take over a collapsing County Armagh surgery that faced full closure on 13 January, leaving more than 5,000 patients without a doctor.

The final GP at Bannview Medical Practice in Portadown resigned owing to severe workforce pressures.

The practice had been relying on locum cover and the support of six surgeries based in the same health centre who themselves announced they would be closing their own lists owing to increasing workload pressures.

The situation at Bannview prompted the Northern Ireland Assembly’s health committee to call an emergency meeting during recess in the festive week where a letter from the final GP at Bannview passionately spelt out the pressure she was under and pleaded with them to take urgent action to save general practice.


Not the first time

Responding to the Department of Health’s announcement that a new GP contractor provider will take over at Bannview Medical Practice from March, BMA Northern Ireland GPs committee chair Tom Black welcomed the news but cautioned that the situation would happen again.

‘This will now help protect neighbouring practices in Portadown who are already stretched to capacity themselves,’ said Dr Black.

'However, general practice across Northern Ireland is still under immense pressure. There are a significant number of practices whose services are vulnerable owing to workforce issues.

‘NIGPC is deeply concerned about the number of GPs planning to retire this year without any young doctors willing to take over these positions because of the chronic pressures that general practice is under.

‘The situation at Bannview will happen again. We call on the DH to implement an emergency rescue plan for general practice as a matter of urgency.’

The overwhelming majority of GPs who attended crisis meetings across Northern Ireland in the latter part of 2016 to discuss the escalating workforce and underinvestment crisis in general practice said they were willing to begin the process of leaving the health service to prevent its complete collapse.

Read more about the GP crisis

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