GP morale at a 30 year low but Derry doc believes mass resignations can be avoided

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Derry doctor John O’Kelly has told members of the Stormont Health Committee that the consideration of mass resignations from the local NHS by GPs is regrettable but reflective of morale having sunk to a 30 year nadir.

But Dr O’Kelly, who works at the Aberfoyle practice and is Chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) told MLAs he believes the BMA General Practitioners Committee (GPC) and the Health Minister Michelle O’Neill can come to an agreement on how to adequately alleviate pressures on GP practices.

“My hope is that the GPC will sit down with the Department and get that sorted out. I do not think that resignation is really what any of us wants. I am hopeful that it will not come to that, to be honest. It reflects the fact that morale in general practice is probably at the lowest that it has been for the last 30 years that I have been a GP.”

Dr O’Kelly stressed that he loved being a GP and did not want to discourage young people from joining the profession.

He said a new medical school at Magee would be a positive step.

“There are, of course, discussions about a new medical school in the north-west, in Derry. Part of what we have to do is continue our work with our medical students, because the danger is that I will come along and say how bad things are at the minute and a medical student will say, ‘I am not doing that’.

“What I want to emphasise here is that I have been a GP for thirty years and love my job. It is a fantastic job. It is an honour to do it. It has variety. You build up relationships with patients and the community that no other branch does.

“It is extremely funny at times. You will get the best of laughs. It is completely frustrating, but it is never boring. I want to put on record that general practice is a fantastic career to get involved in despite all the problems that we have had.”