Northern Ireland

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General practice must continue to change and evolve says NI GP leader

The leader of GPs in Northern Ireland will say that general practice in Northern Ireland needs to be sustained to enable the service to evolve which is so important to the future of the health service as a whole. 

Speaking today [Tuesday, 19 March] at the annual conference of GPs, being held this week in the ICC-Waterfront in Belfast, Dr Alan Stout will tell delegates that work has begun to sustain and maintain general practice services across Northern Ireland in order to stablise the service and make it an attractive career option for young doctors.  

“We have started a large contingency project, working in collaboration with our board and Department of Health, to do everything we can to sustain and maintain practices in difficulty, and to really start to push the boundaries of what is possible with an aim to maintain general medical services as the priority across Northern Ireland.

“It would be far too easy for me to stand here and go through all the problems in Northern Ireland, and we have many problems. Waiting lists, over four years in some specialities according to the latest figures, and over two years in most. 

“Delayed discharges and issues with social care and the demographic challenges that we are all familiar with, and most relevant to today, failing practices, particularly as a result of simply a lack of GP’s and the workforce crisis. This is truly frightening, and we are dealing with multiple problems in multiple areas. 

“Six months ago, just about anywhere outside of Belfast was struggling, now we are seeing significant issues inside Belfast too and this is the most concerning as we always knew Belfast would be the last to suffer. If you take any promotional material for Northern Ireland, with the beautiful views and beautiful countryside, you can almost guarantee that that area can’t attract GP’s.

“Of course, we still don’t have a government, or a health Minister…  but, and it’s an important but, we have really good people in Northern Ireland, and we are making some progress. NIGPC and our LMCs continue to work extremely hard not only to help practices, but also to help to evolve practice and our systems.

“This has led us to a position where we now have a federation model that is a single model and consistent across the whole region. Every GP and every practice is covered and it really does allow us to start to sustain local areas and develop local services.

“Despite having no Minister, we have worked very closely with the Department and the Health and Social Care Board and we have started to see significant investment through this route and we helped to develop a full understanding across the whole system of investment in primary and community care. 

“Our practice based pharmacist project is about to enter its final phase and we are now seeing a full time pharmacist per average sized practice, fully funded and starting to show real benefits in terms of safety and quality and freeing GP time.

“We have also seen the start of our own MDT’s, including physios, mental health workers, social workers and advanced nurse practitioners. Again, this is fully funded will see this expanded and strengthened primary care team being fully embedded within practices. We have a commitment of an £84m investment over the next few years, along with the £16m for pharmacists… so we are concentrating very much on stability and development.

“Future plans include contract easement where required, boundary and registration changes and list management. Alongside this we have started work to look at options for premises and also for contract holding, again to reduce risk and to create a more attractive offering for younger doctors coming through.”


Notes to editors

The BMA is a trade union representing and negotiating on behalf of all doctors in the UK. A leading voice advocating for outstanding health care and a healthy population. An association providing members with excellent individual services and support throughout their lives.

1. LMCs are local representative committees of NHS GPs and represent their interests in their localities to the NHS health authorities. LMCs interact and work with – and through – the BMA’s GP committee, as well as other branch of practice committees and local specialist medical committees in various ways, including conferences. They are not regional BMA offices. Find more information here.

2. The 2019 LMC conference UK takes places at the ICC, Belfast on Tuesday 19 and Wednesday 20 March. More information can be found here.

3. Dr Stout will give his speech at 2.40pm you can watch a livestream here:

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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