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Funding boost for general practice in Northern Ireland

GP leaders welcome cash announcement

Jo Carlowe

Monday, 11 June 2018

GP leaders in Northern Ireland have welcomed the announcement of the new GMS contract for 2019, including an £8.8m investment in GP services.

Details of the contract were outlined today by the Northern Ireland Department of Health and it includes an extra £1m funding to cover increased indemnity costs, £1.8m towards patient number increases due to population growth, and £1.5m for premises upgrades.

Dr Tom Black, chair of British Medical Association’s (BMA) Northern Ireland’s general practitioners committee, said: “Any extra money in general practice is welcomed and this latest investment brings the total extra funding this year to £21.58m.

“GPs will be particularly happy to see further investment towards demography increases as our population is now living longer and with more complex health needs. This is being felt acutely among working GPs as their numbers continue to dwindle across the country while patient numbers grow.”

He added: “The environment for primary care is still an extremely challenging one, yet despite this GPs remain committed as ever to providing the best possible service and level of care for their patients in these circumstances.”

The funding boost also received praise from the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP).

Dr Grainne Doran, chair of the RCGP Northern Ireland said: "The College is pleased to see the Department of Health's commitment to supporting general practice in Northern Ireland. For too long, GP services have been underfunded and both doctors and patients have suffered as a result. Today's announcement of additional resources for premises, practice-based pharmacists, demographic pressures and indemnity costs is very welcome.

"Practice-based pharmacists are now well-embedded into many practices across Northern Ireland. Patients are directly benefiting from this service and pharmacists have been able to help alleviate some of the pressure on GPs. Ongoing investment and support for practice-based pharmacists and community pharmacy will be beneficial in enabling better services for patients within the community.”

Dr Doran added: “Investment in the expansion and modernisation of GP premises is essential to enable the transformation of our health and social care service. The College has been working closely with the Department of Health to design the new model of multidisciplinary team working in primary care and funding was recently announced for piloting this. Premises investment will be vital to ensure that this new way of working can be rolled-out across the entire region in the long-term so that every patient in NI will benefit from being able to access the right healthcare professional, at the right time, within their own community. Today's investment is therefore welcome – but a full assessment of premises requirements must be carried out for the whole region so that no practices will be left behind.

“Indemnity costs for GPs are set to increase in April 2019 so some additional support for these costs is welcome today – however, it is critical that we find a full solution to increased indemnity costs, in line with England and Wales, as a matter of urgency. We must not create financial disincentives for newly qualified GPs and trainees that will encourage them to consider working elsewhere in the UK, instead of training and working in Northern Ireland.

"We look forward to working with the Department and other key stakeholders to make continued progress on health and social care reform in Northern Ireland.”

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