Newspaper for Crossmaglen, South Armagh, Newry and Down.

Local GPs willing to begin the process of undated resignations

The overwhelming majority of GPs who attended a crisis meeting to discuss the escalating crisis in general practice have said they are willing to begin the process of leaving the health service.

The meeting, held in Armagh last Wednesday, attracted over 100 GPs from across the area. It was called by British Medical Association Northern Ireland’s General Practitioners Committee (NIGPC) to discuss the resignation scheme which GPs are putting forward as the best way forward to convince the government that current general practice is not sustainable and that it would be sustainable if GPs moved outside the NHS to build it back up again.

Of the GPs in attendance, 93% agreed that they are willing to sign an undated resignation from the health service in order to prevent its complete collapse.

The decision to ask GPs to consider undated resignations follows a motion taken at a meeting of the Local Medical Committee (LMC) in March where doctors voted in favour of seeking support for such a mass action if the Department of Health failed to negotiate a rescue package for primary care within six months.

NIGPC is calling on the Minister for Health to ensure the survival of general practice throughout Northern Ireland by investing 10% of the Northern Ireland Healthcare budget on a safe, sustainable GP service for patients; training more GPs so practices at risk of closure can stay open and meet the needs of patients, and; reducing bureaucracy and improve IT systems so more time can be spent providing care to patients.

NIGPC has warned that if the Department of Health does not act to implement these urgent rescue measures then general practice will collapse across the country.  They are asking colleagues to consider signing undated resignations to force the government to act before it’s too late.

Speaking at the meeting, NIGPC chair, Dr Tom Black said: “We obviously knew things were bad in general practice but we didn’t realise things were that bad.  The turnout tonight shows how much pressure we are under.

“What we have heard tonight are the very issues we have been flagging up in general practice for many months now and unfortunately it looks like it’s crunch time.

“While there were some positive announcements by Minister O’Neill as part of her Health and Wellbeing plans, until we have greater clarity about the funding for these initiatives we need to move forward with our own plans.”

Last week’s meeting, which was held in the City Hotel in Armagh, was the second of five similar crisis meetings to be held for GPs across Northern Ireland over the coming weeks. GPs also met in Belfast last week with 97% agreeing to sign undated resignations.