Northern Ireland's GPs warn against contract workload
31 January 2013
Doctors leaders have said GPs in Northern Ireland will be unable to cope with the additional workload that could be imposed via the GP contract.
BMA Northern Ireland has said it is willing to negotiate with the DHSSPS (Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety) but warned that GPs are already struggling to cope with demand.
Talks have reached an impasse and the Northern Ireland Executive has put its proposals out to consultation.
Northern Ireland GPs committee chair Tom Black said the contract was one of the worst being offered to family doctors in the UK. In particular, he hit out at the new thresholds and indicators proposed for the quality and outcomes framework.
He said: 'Some practices will have difficulty maintaining the level of care they currently offer, let alone increase their capacity to meet the demands of these new proposals.
'If this contract is imposed, GPs in Northern Ireland will have no choice but to protect their core activity of looking after sick patients, rather than taking on additional work.'
The changes proposed for the contract have prompted concerns over the ability of GPs in Northern Ireland to deliver the additional workload being proposed under the health service shake up TYC (Transforming Your Care).
Meanwhile, Stormont is considering introducing an annual check-up for all patients that Dr Black said would equate to an additional 1.8 million consultations every year.
Dr Black said: ‘We have been saying for some time that we are saturated. We believe the proposals in the new contract will mean a 10 to 15 per cent increase in work for GPs, while TYC will result in 20 per cent more work.
‘If the proposals coming from the health [social services and public safety] committee over the annual check-ups are introduced that will lead to a further 18 per cent increase in our workload.’
Dr Black said patients were likely to suffer rather than benefit from the proposed changes to a contract that had funded GPs for taking steps that directly supported and benefited patients clinically.
He said: ‘This has led to thousands of patients benefiting from early diagnosis and treatment that has saved lives.'
A DHSSPS spokesperson confirmed the annual negotiating process had failed to reach a settlement.
The spokesperson said: ‘The department acknowledges that services must continue to evolve to keep in line with the changes ahead through TYC. The department remains willing to continue dialogue with the NIGPC about the proposed changes, including as part of the consultation, in an effort to reach an acceptable agreement.’
The consultation closes on March 22.
The BMA Scottish GPs committee and the BMA Welsh GPs committee have each reached agreements with their devolved national governments.
In England, the government is threatening to impose changes to the contract. It is currently conducting a consultation on its proposals. The GPC is surveying GPs to help develop its response to the consultation which closes on February 26.