Crisis Faces GP Practice System In Northern Ireland

Letter to the editor:  from Dr Tom Black, Chair, Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee.

Dear Editor:

dn_screenGeneral Practice in Northern Ireland is in crisis. We have an increasing number of patients registering, the lowest number of GP’s per head of population and the lowest funding of any of the four UK countries.
GP practices are struggling to meet the needs of patients and it is clear that patients throughout Northern Ireland are becoming frustrated by the difficulty of accessing GP appointments. GP’s are working harder than ever to deliver care. However, without the right level of funding from government, patients will unfortunately continue to wait for appointments.
We are encouraging younger doctors to become GP’s in Northern Ireland, but with the current levels of funding the job is very difficult to do. The situation has declined to the point where practices cannot attract GP’s to take over from colleagues who are retiring. This has placed many rural practices under threat and we have seen examples of this across Northern Ireland recently.
GP’s in Northern Ireland are dedicated and want to provide the best care for patients. GP’s themselves have been working hard to develop new ‘federation’ structures that will enable patients to access more of the services they need within primary care. GP’s need this work to be funded by government in order to help patients get access to care in their communities. GP’s want patients to be able to access the care they need and have been working hard on new ideas to deliver this. However, the long-term under investment in general practice needs to be reversed urgently.
GP’s in Northern Ireland are asking for understanding and consideration from the public as we work through this challenging situation. General practice needs to be properly funded to deliver what patients need. We know how highly communities value their GP services and they deserve the ability to access these. It is most important that we are able to care for the people in greatest need and general practice needs the right funding to do that.


Dr Tom Black,

(Chairman of the Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee.)