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Doctors seek assurances on extra funding for health in Northern Ireland

Extra £1.5bn funding must help rescue general practice, says BMA

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

An extra £1.5 billion funding for Northern Ireland’s public services including health, education and infrastructure must help towards rescuing general practice, according to the BMA.

Its leaders in Northern Ireland have called for urgent meetings with ministers following the announcement of the extra funding secured yesterday by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) as part of its agreement to support the Conservative government in Westminster.

In a statement, DUP leader Arlene Foster said: “Today we have reached an agreement with the Conservative Party on support for the government in Parliament. This agreement will operate to deliver a stable government in the United Kingdom’s national interest at this vital time.

“Following our discussions, the Conservative Party has recognised the case for higher funding in Northern Ireland given our unique history and circumstances over recent decades.

“We welcome this new financial support of £1 billion in the next two years as well as providing new flexibilities on almost £500 million previously committed to Northern Ireland. As a consequence, spending power of almost £1.5 billion will be available to address the unique circumstances of Northern Ireland and the effect these have had on its economy and its people.”

Responding to the announcement, BMA Northern Ireland council chair Dr John Woods said he and his team would be seeking a meeting with the Department of Health to lay out their ideas for how the money could best be used.

“Obviously we welcome additional funding for health here,” said Dr Woods. “However, it is now essential that this money is actually spent addressing the issues we face and not used as a quick fix solution that does nothing to address the long-term sustainability of healthcare in Northern Ireland.

“There are a number of priority areas that need tackled urgently; the crisis in general practice has been well documented and the BMA has made it clear that a rescue package is needed now. We also need to take steps now to address the growing shortage of doctors across Northern Ireland in order to meet population needs.”

The extra money should also be used in a strategic way, he added, saying: “The money needs to be used to support genuine system and service transformation. This includes developing effective systems for elective and urgent care.

“It would be tempting to try to clear the waiting lists in one swoop with this money, however a previous attempt to do this just didn’t work as a sustainable way of addressing the problem. This investment gives us a real opportunity to implement a radical and far-reaching transformation of health in Northern Ireland.”

Picture credit: James Kennedy NI / Shutterstock.com

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