Northern Ireland

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BMA Northern Ireland calls on public to back petition campaign to save general practice

British Medical Association Northern Ireland is urging the public to sign a petition calling on the Northern Ireland government to address the escalating crisis in General Practice here.

The petition, which was launched this week and is available to sign in GP surgeries across the country, is calling on the Minister for Health to ensure the survival of general practice throughout Northern Ireland by:

  • Investing 10% of the Northern Ireland Healthcare budget on a safe, sustainable GP service for patients
  • Training more GPs so practices at risk of closure can stay open and meet the needs of patients
  • Reducing bureaucracy and improve IT systems so more time can be spent providing care to patients.

The petition comes just over a month after the release of BMA Northern Ireland’s report into the crisis in primary care here which starkly illustrated the pressure GPs are currently under. The report revealed that 74% of practices here say they are struggling and nearly 10% are ‘barely coping’ due to escalating problems such as growing patient list sizes, serious staffing gaps, growing paper work and bureaucracy.

The petition campaign will run throughout August and will then be presented to the Northern Ireland Assembly once it reconvenes in September after the summer recess.

Chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee, Dr Tom Black, urged the public to support their GP and sign the petition.

“General practice is one of the key bedrocks of every community in Northern Ireland and is the first point of contact for 90% of health and social care-related needs here.  Yet the Northern Ireland government is sleep-walking towards a crisis in primary care, as our report clearly illustrates,” said Dr Black.

“The majority of rural practices in Northern Ireland are at serious risk of closure due to workforce and workload issues.  The situation is particularly bad for smaller, single-handed and rural practices that have fewer GPs working in them and who are struggling to fill vacancies.

“We’re calling on the public to show their support for our call for the government to urgently address the problems faced by general practice by signing our petition.  Every practice in Northern Ireland will have a copy for you to sign up until September 2nd when we intend to present the petition to the Northern Ireland Assembly when it returns in September.

“This is a matter of urgency to not only rescue general practice, but to ensure that patients in Northern Ireland have a responsive, safe and sustainable general practice service that they know will be there when they need it.”


Notes for Editors:

For more information on the work of NIGPC and to download a copy of ‘General practice in crisis: a report on primary care in Northern Ireland’, click here.  

The British Medical Association (BMA) is the voice of doctors and medical students in the UK. It is an apolitical professional organisation and independent trade union, representing doctors and medical students from all branches of medicine across the UK and supporting them to deliver the highest standards of care.
For more information, please contact Gráinne Brinkley, Communications officer, on 028 9026 9672  or 07408805067.

The full list of calls NIGPC is making: 


  • A public commitment from the new minister to invest incremental recurrent funding in general practice at a minimum of 10% of the health budget and to rebalance health resources to where care is delivered. Transforming Your Care,   envisaged care being delivered closer to home with the expected shift in resources to accompany this.  
  • The provision of an immediate stabilisation fund for general practice to provide emergency support to vulnerable practices at risk of collapse or where safe patient care is compromised such as out-of-hours. 

GP taskforce

  • Similar to the NIGPC Rescue Plan Group, the department must establish a task-force to provide support to vulnerable or at risk practices which could include the provision of management resources, clinical input, proactive support that can be called in at short notice. This needs to be developed in liaison with the Local Medical Committees (LMCs).


  • It is vital that a national standard is set for a maximum number of patients that GPs, nurses and other primary care professionals can reasonably care for during a working day to maintain the delivery of safe and high quality care.
  • GP Federations are in a position, if properly supported and funded, to provide locality hubs to which practices can refer urgent patients when they have reached the threshold for safe care on any given day. 
  • Establish a list of services that are not included in the core GMS contract which practices can chose if they wish to provide. 
  • Develop guidance for ensuring that secondary care work is not passed onto GP practices.
  • Review and reduce the bureaucracy on general practice in areas such as QOF and appraisals. 
  • Ensure information technology is fit-for-purpose and resourced. For example online/phone triage / AskMyGP.


  • We know that there are not enough GPs and we need a clear and credible plan to recruit and train more GPs for Northern Ireland.
  • Immediate resources to fund an expanded and comprehensive primary care team to reduce and relieve GPs workload, including mental health practitioners, health visitors, advance nurse practitioners, physiotherapists and physician associates.
  • Increase opportunities for patients to directly access services such as specialist nurses or physiotherapists to reduce the GP first point of contact.
  • Reduce the bureaucratic burdens of the GP returner scheme.
  • Invest in GP out-of-hours service to enable an expanded and sustainable clinical workforce, addressing issues such as indemnity costs.

For further information please contact:

BMA Northern Ireland, 16 Cromac Place, Cromac Wood, Ormeau Road, Belfast BT7 2JB
028 9026 9666   (switchboard)
028 9026 9672   (direct line)
074 0880 9519   (mobile / out of hours)
Email: [email protected] 
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