Resource support

Financial support scheme announced for GPs in Northern Ireland

A £5.5million support package has been announced to help ease the pressures facing general practice in Northern Ireland.

Health Minister Robin Swann said £1m of the funding would go to a new Attract, Recruit, Retain scheme to help attract GPs to hard-to-recruit areas.

There is also £680,000 to bolster the support team for struggling GP surgeries, he said.

And it includes £3million to support practices across Northern Ireland throughout the winter to fund additional sessions during and out of opening hours.

Mr Swann also pledged to push forward work to resolve the ongoing issue of compensation for GPs, where Northern Ireland has lagged behind the rest of the UK on agreeing a backed system by the state, with a full plan expected in November.

“The pressures on primary care services are largely caused by historic underinvestment over several years, which has left the system struggling to meet ever-increasing demand,” he said.

“My department is taking action to address the root causes of these service issues.

“This includes increasing the number of GP training places in Northern Ireland to a record high of 121 and providing an additional investment of £1.5m to support the continued recruitment of staff into the MDT model. .”

But he added that the package announced today would help bolster GP services over the winter period and provide targeted support to those practices most at risk.

Commenting on the additional funding for GP, BMA NI GP Committee Chairman Dr Alan Stout said the announcement was welcome and it was clear the minister understood the issues facing GP.

But he added that “unfortunately, this will not be a solution to the problems that many practices currently face”.

“The Attract, Recruit, Retain program can help practices recruit new GPs, but with a well-documented aging workforce, and with a quarter of our GPs over the age of 55, we need to ensure that we also retain general practitioners in order to stabilize and develop general medicine.

“MDTs have helped many practices and patients, but we really need to see them rolled out across Northern Ireland so that there is parity for all patients.”

He added that they had repeatedly raised compensation issues with the minister and the Department of Health and it was good to see this recognised.

“Finally, meaningful change will require proper planning and that will require not only a budget for this year, but also a multi-year budget. This requires a strong executive and political leadership. We will continue to see the deterioration of our NHS until this happens.