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Surgeries are at breaking point

Tuesday, 15 November 2016

A NEWRY doctor has said that the escalating crisis in general practice could lead to a number of surgeries closing in the area writes Ralph Hewitt.

Dr Arnie McDowell, the resident GP of Clanrye Surgery on Monaghan Street, is one of the 93% of GPs that have agreed to sign undated resignations from the health service in order to prevent its complete collapse.

A crisis meeting focusing on GP recruitment, was called by the British Medical Association Northern Ireland's General Practitioners Committee (NIGPC), and was held in Armagh on Wednesday, November 9.

Speaking to The Democrat, Dr McDowell has stressed that the decision taken by GPs is not about closing practises, it's about keeping them open.

“A quarter of the GPs in Northern Ireland would be 55 so we have been aware for quite a number of years that we have needed to get increased recruitment into general practice," explained Dr McDowell.

“The numbers being trained in Northern Ireland have been known to be inadequate for a number of years and we've been campaigning for a period of years to get the trainee numbers increased.

“Over that past year or so these problems have started coming home to roost and when GP vacancies are being advertised they're not being filled and this is really leading to a significant number of practises working on less than their proper quota of GPs and we've seen examples where practises have really been destabilised by that.

“The difficulties in Crossmaglen have been coped with to a degree albeit with less numbers of GPs than would be actually needed.

“All GPs would share the idea that this is not something they want to see happen and not something they want to do, it's not a wish for GPs to see themselves outside the health service, it's really putting the Department and Minister on notice that if the situation is not corrected then the only alternative would be to do that, which will be unpalatable for GPs and patients alike."

In a statement released to The Democrat yesterday (Monday), the Minister for Health Michelle O'Neill, stated that investment in general practice has increased with an investment package of up to 5.1 million in 2015/16 and up to a further 7m in 2016/17 and that the number of GP training places would increase to 111 within a three year period.

“Investment in the Practice Based Pharmacist scheme will result in close to 300 pharmacists employed in GP practices across the north of Ireland by 2020/21 and will see total investment rising to 14m per year," she went on to explain.

“By December 2016 it is anticipated that 54 of these will be in GP practices here, seeing patients, improving care and easing the workload on GPs.

“Other actions to support this new more holistic model of care will include having named health visitors and district nurses in GP surgeries by the end of March 2017.

“I look forward to working with GPs and their representatives in implementing my ambition for improving health and social care and ensuring sustainable GP services for our population."

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