Northern Ireland Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has been trying to placate people and politicians over the GP crisis that has hit several practices across the country. The latest crisis is at Bannview Medical Practice. O’Neill stated that the Southern Trust may take over the GP contract, allowing the health trust to directly employ GPs rather than going through a medical contractor or getting permanent GPs.
This GP crisis is the latest to hit Northern Ireland general practices. The Portadown practice, which serves 5,000 patients, has been working without a GP. A few days ago, it was revealed that the new medical contractor has withdrawn and plans are afoot to find a replacement contractor to take over the practice.
Bannview Medical Practice has been struggling since summer 2016, when it had just a single doctor for 5,200 patients. The problem came to light two years ago, but no steps were taken to address it.
The single GP serving Bannview patients resigned in December 2016, and now the practice is dependent on locums. This is costing approximately £500 daily. The practice stated that the medical contractor who was supposed to take over the practice in March has decided not to go ahead.
Ulster Unionist Party health spokesperson Jo-Anne Dobson criticised O’Neill for offering stop-gap solutions rather than coming up with something permanent.
General Practitioners Committee Northern Ireland Chair Dr Tom Black stated that the situation in Bannview was occurring across Northern Ireland. He said that the recent developments have proven that general practice in the country is on the brink of a full-blown crisis.
Dr Black went on to add that Northern Ireland GPs have urged the Government for immediate investment to ensure that general practice does not collapse, and several are contemplating resigning from the health service to prevent this from occurring.