GENERAL Practice in the North of Ireland is close to collapse with the General Practitioners Committee (GPC) seeking to collect enough undated resignations to ‘walk away from the NHS’.
Speaking with Pulse, GPC Northern Ireland chair Dr Tom Black said that Local Medical Committee (LMC) leaders were warning of practices across the country on the brink of collapse at a meeting last week.
The Northern Ireland GPC is currently collecting resignations from GPs, with the aim of stepping outside the NHS when they receive resignations from 60% of practices. Dr Black said that the GPC was ‘finalising’ its so-called Plan B, which will lay out the details on charging for appointments and around staff, pensions and indemnity once GPs are outside the NHS.
Black added however that the combination of the closures of practices with the fact that there was no government may mean that general practice will ‘collapse’ altogether before 60% of practices are collected. Black stated that the whole of Northern Ireland is facing major practice closures.
Black stated there are ‘multiple’ practices at risk of closure in Belfast where LMC leaders reported similar pressures to those long seen in rural areas. ‘Co Fermanagh is in a perilous state after the closure of a number of practices in recent weeks with half expected to go within the year. And there is concern for Portadown, where it had been predicted the whole town could be left without a GP after a domino effect caused by the closure of a 5,200 patient practice in January.’
Last January the GPC began to collect undated resignations after 97% voted to back the move which could see GPs leave the NHS and begin to charge for appointments. Black said: ‘There are lots of resignations coming in every week.’ Black continued: ‘There are multiple collapses going on.’
General practice will ‘collapse’ altogether before 60% of practices are collected. Resignation from the NHS and charging patients are no way to defend the NHS and general practice, in fact it would help to bury both.
The only way to defend the NHS and General Practice is to bring the Tory government down on June 8 and bring in a Labour government that will be given no alternative but to reverse all NHS cuts, and to provide the proper financing to allow doctors to do their job and treat all their patients free at the point of need. The NHS must not be surrendered to the Tories.
Anna Athow, deputy chairman of the London BMA told News Line in a personal capacity: ‘We are told that the goal has always been that once 60% of resignations are received the NI GPC will begin the process of “stepping outside” the NHS.
‘This means NIGPC would lead GPs to no longer be employed by the NHS and start charging patients themselves. In effect, this is advising GPs to become private practitioners.
‘This dangerously backward policy, far from solving the problems of primary care in Northern Ireland, will simply help the Conservative government to accelerate privatisation of the NHS throughout the UK. BMA Council and GPC in England must distance itself from the Northern Ireland GPC’s decision to use undated resignations to “step outside” the NHS.
‘In fact, the former should use its powers to prevent BMA GPs in Northern Ireland from leaving the NHS. It is official national BMA policy, voted on at numerous Annual Representative Meetings, to defend the NHS as a publicly funded and provided service and that includes general practice.
‘This backward move has resulted from the outrageous decision at last year’s LMC conference to outlaw any motions proposing strike action to defend general practice alongside the junior doctors’ strike action. The only way to fight privatisation of the NHS is for the BMA to take industrial action alongside other health unions and the whole TUC, to remove this government.’