Londonderry GP, Tom Black, has warned three quarters of local GP practices are at breaking point with most rural practices facing threat of closure and that the Northern Ireland Executive is in danger of sleep-walking into a primary health care crisis.
Dr Black, who is based in the city’s Abbey Medical Practice, made the call as Chair of BMA’s Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee, whilst urging the public to sign a petition calling on the Executive to address the escalating crisis in GP practice here.
The petition comes just over a month after the release of BMA Northern Ireland’s report into the crisis in primary care here which starkly illustrated the pressure GPs are currently under.
The report revealed that 74 per cent of practices here say they are struggling and nearly 10 per cent are ‘barely coping’ due to escalating problems such as growing patient list sizes, serious staffing gaps, growing paper work and bureaucracy.
Dr Black said: “General practice is one of the key bedrocks of every community in Northern Ireland and is the first point of contact for 90% of health and social care-related needs here.
“Yet the Northern Ireland government is sleep-walking towards a crisis in primary care, as our report clearly illustrates,” said Dr Black, who is based in the city’s Abbey Medical Practice.
“The majority of rural practices in Northern Ireland are at serious risk of closure due to workforce and workload issues.
“The situation is particularly bad for smaller, single-handed and rural practices that have fewer GPs working in them and who are struggling to fill vacancies.
“We’re calling on the public to show their support for our call for the government to urgently address the problems faced by general practice by signing our petition.
“Every practice in Northern Ireland will have a copy for you to sign up until September 2, when we intend to present the petition to the Northern Ireland Assembly when it returns in September.
“This is a matter of urgency to not only rescue general practice, but to ensure that patients in Northern Ireland have a responsive, safe and sustainable general practice service that they know will be there when they need it.”
The petition, which was launched this week and is available to sign in GP surgeries across the country, is calling on the Minister for Health to ensure the survival of general practice throughout Northern Ireland by: investing 10 per cent 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.