Derry doctor says primary care is on the brink as doctors vote to proceed with resignation

Derry doctor Tom Black says GPs have voted with 'deep regret' to proceed with gathering undated resignations from general practices across the North but warns primary care is on the brink and medics feel they have been left with no alternative.

Wednesday, 25th January 2017, 1:46 pm
Updated Wednesday, 25th January 2017, 1:48 pm
Dr Tom Black.

The British Medical Association (BMA) Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee (NIGPC) Chair said the decision followed the failure of the Department of Health to announce a rescue package for general practice.

“General practice is on the brink in Northern Ireland and we feel we have no alternative to proceed with collecting undated resignations from our members,” said Dr. Black.

“Continued inaction to save general practice has forced us into this situation. The work of the Northern Ireland government may have stalled, but the need to provide safe and efficient healthcare to patients has not stalled. General practice is being delivered under unsustainable conditions that we can no longer tolerate.

“We have no choice but to act. While we welcomed the proposals outlined in Health Minister Michelle O’Neill’s Health and Wellbeing 2026 plan and the recommendations laid out in the GP-led review, momentum has now been lost.

“We have received no clarity about the funding for either of these initiatives or a rescue plan for general practice and we now feel we have to take action,” he added.

NIGPC has called for several rescue measures for the past year to “prevent the collapse of general practice across the country”.

These include investment of 10 per cent of the Northern Ireland healthcare budget on a safe, sustainable GP service for patients; training and recruitment of more GPs so practices at risk of closure can stay open and meet the needs of patients; and a reduction in bureaucracy and improvement in IT systems so more time can be spent providing care to patients.

Before Christmas the BMA canvassed members and 97 per cent of GPs surveyed agreed that they would be willing to sign an undated resignation from the health service should a rescue package not be announced.

NIGPC has requested an urgent meeting with the Health Minister to discuss this issue.