GP leaders in Northern Ireland will ask the profession to consider a mass resignation, as a response to the ongoing problems with general practice in the nation.
GPC Northern Ireland confirmed following a meeting that it will ask GPs to consider submitting undated resignation letters to the Department of Health.
LMCs had agreed back in March to make this move if the government failed to agree a rescue package for the service.
And GP leaders in England ultimately decided against a similar move last month, after NHS England agreed to discussions on key elements of the GPC’s Urgent Prescription proposals.
The row in England is ongoing, with legal challenges and a climate of opposition to the government’s plans for the NHS making headline news.
BMA Northern Ireland indicated that it will gather opinions to gain consensus and ask GPs to consider signing undated resignation letters on the understanding that when there is a critical mass the union will move to a mass resignation of practices from their contracts.
NIGPC chairman Dr Tom Black believes that the crisis in Northern Ireland is “escalating with ever increasing workload, a diminishing workforce, reduced funding and a failing and unsafe out-of-hours service”.
The NIGPC is demanding a rescue plan for collapsing practices and in- and out-of-hours services, along with immediate implementation of the recommendations from the GP-Led Primary Care Services In Northern Ireland working group.
“We, as a group, have worked hard on behalf of all GPs to persuade the Department of Health to make general practice a priority for investment. However the urgent action we believe that needs to be taken by the department to save general practice, for example by increasing the number of GP training places to 111 and increasing the funding for general practice, has just not happened,” Black commented.
And the eminent doctor also asserted that Northern Ireland is suffering from onerous regional variations that do not impact upon the rest of the UK.
“The situation in Northern Ireland is much worse than the rest of the UK. In England, for example, the General Practice Forward View has pledged significant additional funding, we have not had the same level of commitment from the government here. Without these changes, general practice will collapse. We have therefore no choice but to take drastic action.”
The NHS waiting list target in Northern Ireland is 52 weeks, not 18 as in England, yet evidence suggests that even this unambitious figure is often not met.