Almost half of the GPs in Northern Ireland have plans to cut their hours or leave general practice in the next five years as they feel “overworked, overtired and worried” about the future, a survey has revealed.
The majority of the GPs in Northern Ireland who responded to a ComRes poll said they feared the wait for appointments would increase unless more money was pumped into general practice.
The survey was conducted for the Royal College of General Practitioners Northern Ireland (RCGP NI), which represents 1,300 GPs, into the future challenges facing general practice.
Ninety-three per cent of them said the workload was affecting the quality of care they can offer patients.
Fifteen per cent of the respondents also predicted that it was unlikely or very unlikely that their practice would still be open in 2026.
RCGP NI chairman Dr John O’Kelly said the findings showed general practice was “in serious difficulty” in Northern Ireland.
He called for urgent action to tackle the challenges of workloads and funding and to give them “adequate tools” to do their job properly.
“Looking at the survey findings, the feelings of family doctors in Northern Ireland have been made very clear.
“GPs are overworked, overtired and worried about being able to deliver sustainable, high quality health services to local communities in the future.”
O’Kelly said the government needs to increase the number of GPs by 400 by the end of the decade as there are not enough doctors to meet increasing demands.
He said the government needs to give general practice 11% of the budget for health and social care.
In 2013/14 the spend was 8.3%, he said.
“We need our politicians to commit to allocating this level of resource before we start to see practice closures and diminishing services across the entire region.”
Last autumn RCGP NI published its Delivering change for general practice blueprint. GPs in Scotland also told an RCGP survey they needed more funding in general practice, with 58% of them planning to quit or cut their hours in the next five years.