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GP practices need to protect their core services for their most vulnerable patients, warns NIGPC leader

by Valeria Fiore
9 November 2017

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Northern Ireland’s general practitioners committee (NIGPC) leader Dr Tom Black spoke at the Autumn Conference of Local Medical Committees (NI) to encourage practices to protect basic services in lack of Government funding.

Chair of BMA (NIGPC) Dr Tom Black said practices should make sure they can still provide their basic services to preserve those patients who need them the most.  

‘We can expect no help in the short term and we need to recognise that this crisis and its management are in our own hands. This is our problem and we need to own it,’ said Mr Black.

Speaking at the Autumn Conference of Local Medical Committees (NI) last weekend, he said that last year’ GP led care review plan has not been implemented not only because of a lack of funding, but also because of the ‘political vacuum’ in the country, which means there is ‘no health minister and no assembly’ to implement the plan.

Dr Black said that GPs also have less time available to spend with their patients, because of the greater work they need to do in admin.

‘Workload in terms of consultations has actually decreased by 500,000 over the last two years because of the workforce crisis. Other work such as prescriptions, blood tests and paperwork continues to increase,’ he said.

Dr Black continued by saying that young doctors are less likely to choose a career in general practice because they think the job is ‘no longer doable’ and that the system needs transformation.

He said that GPs in Northern Ireland are to be praised for their goodwill and for bringing ‘innovations into traditional general practice’. Among these, there are the development of federations, in-practice pharmacists, doctor first triage and workload optimisation.

Dr Black noted that there are now fewer GPs per-head of the population compared with the 1950s.


Paula Douglas, practice manager at Castle Medical Practice in Antrim said that GPs at her practice are extremely hard working and that they do not leave the practice until late evening.

‘We are incredibly short of staff at the moment. Even locum covers are difficult to find and we are currently planning to merge with another practice.

‘For the past two years, we have experienced difficulties in recruitment because of a funding problem. What we need right now is more financial support to employ more staff,’ she said. 

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