General practices in Norther Ireland will receive a further £8.8m to strengthen GP services, the Department of Health (DH) in Northern Ireland has announced today.
The funding announcement means GP practices and related services will receive nearly £22m in total this year, marking the largest funding injection for general practice in Northern Ireland since 2004.
The announcement of extra funding for GP services comes after the DH pledged £15m towards enhancing primary care in Northern Ireland from the £100m Transformation Fund.
Increased number of practice pharmacists
Some £4.54m of the total funding injection will flow into Nothern Ireland’s practice-based pharmacist scheme.
The DH said the scheme is freeing up GP time and helps ensure ‘the safe and effective use of medicines for better patient care’.
It continued: ‘By the end of the year, there will be close to 200 pharmacists working across practices in Northern Ireland.’
Of the extra funding announced, £1.5m has been specifically allocated to ‘to improve and expand practice premises’.
The DH said the funding will help practices ‘create the space for multi-disciplinary teams and ensure they have the space to train the increased numbers of GP trainees’.
A spokesman from the DH said: ‘In late 2016 the then Health Minister, Michelle O’Neill, announced an increase in the number of GP training places by 12 (to 97) in 2017/18 and a further 14 (to 111) in 2018/19, a year ahead of the recommended timescale set out on the 2014 Workforce Review of General Practice.
This followed on from an increase in the number of trainees from 65 to 85 in August 2016.’
In order to face to growing demographic pressures, £1.8m of the funding will be used to address issues ‘such as rising populations and more people with long term conditions who need care’, the DH added.
A further £1m has been allocated to cover rising indemnity costs.
It comes after BMA Northern Ireland’s general practitioners committee chair Dr Tom Black said that GPs have less time to spend with their patients because of the rising administration work.
Commenting on today’s announcement, Dr Black said: ‘The environment for primary care is still an extremely challenging one, yet GPs remain committed to providing the best possible service and level of care for their patients in these circumstances.’