Northern Ireland invests £26m in general practice services

Author: Louise Prime
Northern Ireland invests £26m in general practice services

GP leaders have welcomed the promise of additional investment in GP services in Northern Ireland for 2019-20, which they said “will mean that more GP practices will be able to begin the process of transforming the way they deliver services”. And, they said, the increased funding for GP premises will be “fundamental to providing sustained and enhanced primary care”.

The Department of Health (DoH) in Northern Ireland announced late yesterday an extra £26.76m investment in general practice, which it said builds on the £37.7m of additional funding already invested in GP and related services over the past two years.

It explained that the 2019/20 funding includes up to £18.17m for the continuation and acceleration of transformation projects begun in 2018/19, including up to £11.1m to support the ongoing roll-out of multidisciplinary teams, £3.5m for a range of elective care services delivered through general practice, and investment of £1.1m in advanced nurse practitioners. It said multidisciplinary team working – involving advanced nurse practitioners, physios, social workers and mental health support staff working alongside GPs – will allow teams “to deliver the right care in the right place and at the right time”. DoH permanent secretary Richard Pengelly revealed that:

  • A further £2.19m will be available to support the roll-out of the next stage of the Practice Based Pharmacist scheme, bringing the total recurrent investment to nearly £13.19m; more than two-thirds of the 300 pharmacists planned for general practice are now in post.
  • Up to £3.9m will be available for investment in GP premises, with a focus on supporting the delivery of multidisciplinary team working and the expansion of training in general practice. 
  • In addition, up to £2.5m will be used to address demography and other pressures in general practice.  

Richard Pengelly said: “These significant investments reflect the crucial role general practice has in delivering health and social care to meet the needs of patients now and into the future.”

The DoH noted that the investment announced yesterday does not include its response to the recommendations in the report of the Doctors and Dentists Review Body, published on 22 July 2019; it said these will be considered within the context of the setting of the wider public sector pay remit.

The British Medical Association (BMA) in Northern Ireland welcomed the department’s announcement of additional funding. Dr Alan Stout, chair of the BMA General Practitioners Committee in Northern Ireland, said: “This funding announcement is good news for GPs, for primary care and for patients across Northern Ireland.

“The transformation money that has already been spent is beginning to make a difference for GPs, helping to ease their workload and allowing frontline services to patients to be spread across a range of health staff who are best suited to addressing a patient’s needs. This increased investment will mean that more GP practices will be able to begin the process of transforming the way they deliver services.

“Patients can now see that an appointment with the GP is not always what they need and advanced nurse practitioners, physios, social workers, mental health support staff or pharmacists can provide them with the care and information they need, with the GP always there as part of that multi-disciplinary team.”

He went on: “We also welcome the increased funding for GP premises which will be fundamental to providing sustained and enhanced primary care, along with the other areas such as elective care services that will be so important in how we transform and change how we think about and deliver healthcare in the future.

“The past few years have been very challenging for general practice, with many GPs feeling disillusioned and despondent. As a profession we always strive to provide the best possible service to patients and this announcement, along with completion of the roll out of MDTs in the next few years, will help sustain primary care and enable it to become a strong foundation for the future of delivering and transforming care to the whole population.”