GP Practices in Northern Ireland Set to Lose Money

GP practices based in Northern Ireland will lose thousands of pounds following the collapse of services across the nation.

Officials from the health department in Northern Ireland have already informed GP organisations that they will not change the way that QOF payments are made.

This is despite the fact that increased list sizes have been caused by the raft of practice mergers and closures required in order to ensure that the service remains operable.

Northern Ireland GPC (NIGPC) is now preparing possible advice for practices to cut services to match funding losses.

NIGPC is already co-ordinating the collection of undated contract resignations in preparation for practices to leave the NHS in response to the funding, workload and workforce crises.

The QOF payment mechanism has led to around 80% of practices losing funding, with the general practice system in Northern Ireland haemorrhaging £1 million in total.

NHS England has also operated a similar policy, and it is generally presumed that there will also be consequences of this in the English healthcare system.

NIGPC chair Dr Tom Black noted that the office of the organisation to reach a satisfactory conclusion.

“We have been negotiating with the department on behalf of our members. After many weeks of negotiation the department has decided to pay QOF on the basis of the increased list sizes and as a result 80% of practices will lose funding.”

But Black also stated that many GP practices within Northern Ireland will lose a significant amount of money.

“There are many practices that will lose more than £20,000 and the total loss to general practice will be £1m. This is not profit for GPs, but money that is reinvested in their practices through employing staff, investing in premises and technology and meeting the financial overheads of running a practice.”

And the eminent doctor went on to explain the reasons behind the QOF and financial problems.

“This reduction in payments is happening because the average list size in Northern Ireland has increased due to collapsing practices and mergers, and given that the practice list size acts as the denominator in the payment calculation it results in a smaller quantum for QOF achievement. Essentially this is a statistical quirk and the department has decided to take advantage of this by cutting GP funding and saving themselves £1m.”

It was also noted by Black that English healthcare services would have face similar challenges had the government not intervened with financial investment.

“The same issue happened in England but their government moved rapidly to cover the gap, so the decision of our department is not only astounding but is a kick in the teeth for GPs in Northern Ireland who are keeping a GP service afloat despite having the smallest workforce and the lowest funding. Funding evidence coming from our accountants indicates that we’re being funded at a rate of £101 per patient per year compared to England £142.”

Black concluded his statement by suggesting that doctors working in Northern Ireland will be far from happy with the developments.

“GPs across Northern Ireland will be rightly furious about this decision and are now being forced to take further action. We will bring a possible action GPs can take to our NIGPC meeting on Wednesday outlining how practices can make cutbacks to their services equivalent to the cuts in funding that they will now suffer.”


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