Top NI medic warns of pressure on GPs as 22 surgeries are in crisis

A leading medic has warned 22 surgeries in Northern Ireland are in crisis.

r Tom Black, Chair of the British Medical Association’s Northern Ireland Council, has spoken about the increasing pressure on GPs here.

Speaking on BBC Good Morning Ulster, Dr. Black on his concerns after the Department of Health said the number of GP surgeries in Northern Ireland has fallen by around 10% in eight years.

The number of patients per practice has also increased by around 15%.

It also emerged this week that the Priory and Springhill practices in Co Down will close early next year unless more GPs can be recruited to take over.

“It’s been building up over the last decade or more, the problem we have now is of course the huge workload from the Covid pandemic and the waiting lists,” he said.

“So if you ask a local GP, ‘what’s the problem right now,’ they would say, ‘our patients have been waiting for years to be seen in the hospital, during that time they come to the doctor much more often than usual.'” ”

He said this is forcing many GP practices to become overwhelmed and eventually to close their doors.

dr Black said consultants’ and GPs’ salaries have fallen by about 30% over the past 15 years as a result of steady funding cuts.

A decade ago he said only 65 GPs were trained a year, which fell short of demand.

He said Health Secretary Robin Swann has taken steps to improve this, with 111 trained over the last year and 120 earmarked for next year.

“In a couple of years we will be sustainable but you can see all these things coming together and on top of that Covid has put tremendous pressure on the system.”

When asked whether GPs are simply retiring or quitting because of stress, Dr. Black said the number of retirements had increased by 50%.

He said this was due to “perverse tax regimes,” meaning those who stayed with the company would incur “huge tax bills” for pension arrangements.

dr Black said a small number of GPs remain in office past retirement age, but the increased workload and the risk involved made this unsustainable.

Looking back on his own day at work, he said it was going to be “hell for leather” and admitted he had considered leaving too.

“Everyone does. I’ve been on my NHS pension for three years but I still love my job… (my) relationship with the patients at Bogside in Derry and I don’t want to leave it.

“As long as they put up with me, I’ll stay for the time being.” Top NI medic warns of pressure on GPs as 22 surgeries are in crisis

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