‘GP clinics at breaking point’

LONDONDERRY doctor Tom Black says many local GP practices are at breaking point and is accusing the Government of ignoring their plight.

He made the comments as negotiations between the central Department of Health and his union, the British Medical Association (BMA) broke down.

Dr Black, who is Chair of the BMA’s Northern Ireland GP committee said there will be huge implications to proposed changes to GP contracts.

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The Department of Health wants doctors to commit to extra work in return for a 1.5 per cent increase in GP practice funding.

Dr Black said: “The implications of the government’s new proposals for general practice are likely to be huge, and we will be examining the consequences of this threatened imposition so that we can fully inform the profession and public as soon as possible.

“There are serious question marks over whether some of the intended changes are based on sound clinical evidence or are practical or feasible.

“The UK government is being disingenuous in its presentation of how we have arrived at this point. GPs will be stunned and angered that the government is disregarding five months of detailed negotiations between the BMA and HSC Employers which was in its final stages just a couple of weeks ago. The government must urgently rethink its approach and return to our negotiated settlement that was so close to being concluded.”

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He said the Government’s own surveys show patients consistently recognise their GP’s commitment to their patients.

He also said that doctors are at the forefront of driving up standards but warned many practices are at breaking point.

“Many practices are already stretched to breaking point, which the government appears to be ignoring. For all practices, the changes will place an enormous strain on GPs at a time when they are struggling under the weight of a wholesale HSC reorganisation, especially the implementation of Transforming Your Care (TYC).

Doctors recognise that we are in tough economic times and the BMA has been committed to achieving a negotiated settlement that delivers genuine improvements for patients while being realistic about what practices can deliver,” he stated.