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a pound imageDecember 21 2017

General practices in Northern Ireland are to benefit from £3.9 million in funding, the Department of Health there has announced. Funding comprises £1.7 million to address demographic changes and £2.2 million to uplift the GP contract by 1%.

This week’s announcement follows the awarding of £26 million allocated to the Department at the end of November. The 1% uplift is in line with the recommendation by the Review Body on Doctors’ and Dentists’ Remuneration.

Richard Pengelly, Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health, said: “The Department recognises that primary care and GP services are the bedrock of our health and social care system. This investment of a further £3.9m, follows earlier investment this year of £1.9m for elective care and £3.91m to continue the rollout of nearly 300 practice-based pharmacists.

“Given the current difficult financial position, investing nearly £10m more in GP services, the largest additional investment in recent years, reflects the Department’s commitment to the continued development of sustainable and accessible primary care services centred on the needs of patients.”

Mr Pengelly also announced that eligibility to the sickness leave scheme for GPs is being changed, with an expectation that “the changes will save GPs more than £2.5m per year in sickness leave insurance premiums.”

Dr Grainne Doran, Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners in Northern Ireland, welcomed the additional funding, saying: “We believe that this investment acknowledges the Department’s commitment to ensure the long-term sustainability of general practice in Northern Ireland.

“GPs throughout the region have been working at maximum capacity and struggling to manage a significantly growing workload, without any extra resources. This announcement has to be acknowledged as evidence that the Department of Health recognises the issues.

“While we are pleased to receive this additional funding for general practice, the College is calling for the recommendations of the GP-led Care Report to be fully resourced and implemented, as agreed by the previous Health Minister in December 2016.”

The BMA has also welcomed the funding announcement. However, Dr Tom Black, chair of BMA Northern Ireland’s general practitioners committee, said: “It is disappointing though that it was not released, as agreed, nine months ago.

“This is a first step in addressing the current crisis faced by general practice in Northern Ireland; it is imperative that the Department of Health now implements the full GP-led Care Review Plan that was announced a year ago by the last health minister, Michelle O’Neill. Without the full plan being implemented services for patients will continue to suffer. We look forward to hearing more from the Department on this.”

Links:
Northern Ireland Dept of Health announcement                  
RCGP comment                  
BMA comment 

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