Hundreds of family doctors have backed plans to leave the health service en masse over the “escalating crisis” faced by GPs, despite the announcement of new health reforms.
The British Medical Association (BMA), an independent trade union representing doctors and medical students, said that more than 200 GPs from the greater Belfast area attended a meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the “escalating crisis in general practice”.
The overwhelming majority of those doctors, 97%, said they were willing to begin the process of leaving the health service over the ongoing crisis.
This comes despite Health Minister Michelle O’Neill’s announcement of a 10-year road map to transform the under-pressure health service, including significant investment in GP surgeries and an increase in the number of GP training places.
However, the chair of the BMA Northern Ireland general practice committee, Dr Tom Black, said that while the reforms were positive there was no “clarity” over how they would be paid for.
“While there were some positive announcements by minister O’Neill as part of her health and wellbeing plans, until we have greater clarity about the funding for these initiatives we need to move forward with our own plans,” he said.
To that end, GPs in Northern Ireland are being asked to consider their willingness to submit undated resignation letters to the Department of Health.
The plan was announced by the BMA in September and over 97% of the 200 GPs in attendance at the ‘crisis’ meeting in Belfast on Tuesday gave their support.
Dr Black said GPs here are facing an “escalating crisis”.
Speaking at the meeting he said: “We obviously knew things were bad in general practice but we didn’t realise things were that bad.
“The turnout tonight shows how much pressure we are under. What we have heard tonight are the very issues we have been flagging up in general practice for many months now and unfortunately it looks like it’s crunch time.”
When the resignation plans were announced, he had said: “There is an escalating crisis facing general practice in Northern Ireland; an ever increasing workload, a diminishing workforce, reduced funding and a failing and unsafe out of hours service.”
Tuesday’s meeting in south Belfast was the first of five set to take place across the Province.