£8.8m to be invested in GP services

Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health.
Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health.

An extra £8.8m in funding is to be ploughed into GP services bringing this year’s total investment in general practice and related services to nearly £22million, the largest funding allocation since 2004.

The investment, announced by the Department of Health yesterday, includes £4.54million for the Practice Based Pharmacist scheme, which is freeing up GP time and together with community pharmacy helping ensure the safe and effective use of medicines for better patient care.

By the end of the year, there will be close to 200 pharmacists working across practices in the North, the department said. In addition, £1.8million will be used to address demographic pressures on GP Practices, such as rising populations and more people with long term conditions who need care. A further £1million has been allocated to address the rising costs of medical indemnity cover while £1.5m has been identified £1.5million to improve and expand practice premises.

SDLP health spokesperson Mark H. Durkan MLA said: “It is good to hear that more than half of the funding will be used for the practice-based pharmacist scheme, with an aim to having close to 200 pharmacists working at GP practices by the end of 2018.

“People are living longer and with more complex needs and it is often GP surgeries that feel the brunt of this. As with all staff in our health service, GPs are over-stretched and are struggling to meet the demand for appointments.

“Being able to recruit extra multi-disciplinary staff and having pharmacists working alongside GPs will not only lift some of the burden that is being placed on the shoulders of our GPs, but will help to reduce queues at hospitals.

“Of course, while any investment is welcome, this is a small amount compared to what is needed overall to not only sustain, but to transform our health service. To tackle the ever-growing issues in our health service, it is imperative that we see a health service wide transformation.

“The SDLP has long advocated for an overall transformation of the health service. Only with radical change can we deliver a health service that is fit for purpose and one that can properly tackle the ever growing issues and provide the health care and support that our people need and deserve.”

Sinn Féin’s local health spokesperson Patricia Logue said: “Investment in primary care is an important component of transformation set forward by the previous Minister for Health Michelle O’Neill in her Delivering Together plan. Improving capacity in general practice, and primary care as a whole, will help deliver more services in the community and enable early intervention and more preventative care that keeps people well for longer. Multi-disciplinary teams involving a variety of different health professionals, including practice based pharmacists, are central to addressing the challenges currently facing health system.”