Health Minister Simon Hamilton has today announced a further investment of up to £17 million to support primary care.
On a visit to Knockbreda Health Centre today he also announced that he had received the report of the GP-led Working Group which he had established in October 2015 to look at the issues facing GP-led primary care services in Northern Ireland.
The Minister said: “We face challenges across our health and social care system, given rising demand for services. Our primary care services are at the frontline in facing this challenge. This is why I established a cross-cutting working group to look at measures to ensure citizens can continue to access world class primary healthcare advice, treatment and facilities.
“I have already taken action to address some of the key issues identified by the working group. I have invested in the biggest increase in GP training places in more than a decade and I have announced a multi-year investment putting up to 300 pharmacists in GP surgeries by 2020/21. These actions will help to address workload pressures and improve care for patients. But I recognise the pressure that our GP services are under and that there is more to do.
“Today’s report will be carefully considered as we take further steps to ensure the future of general practice. I thank all those in the group for their hard work and commitment in producing this report.”
The Minister also announced the conclusion of this year’s contract negotiations with British Medical Association’s GP Committee for Northern Ireland.
The 2016/17 contract will see significant further investment in GP-led services. Including the already announced investment in practice based pharmacists, the investment package will total over £7million. In addition, the Minister has made available up to £10million in financial loans to invest in practice buildings and infrastructure.
The Minister said: “Our investment in the 2016/17 contract meets the recommendation of the independent Doctors and Dentists Review Board, will help to address rising demand and will ensure we adopt innovative new ways of working such as on-line appointment booking and repeat prescriptions. By working at scale through Federations our GPs can help us ensure services are delivered in the community and help address some of the pressures facing our hospitals.”
£2million of the new investment comes from the £30million Transformation Fund. The funding will be focused on addressing the pressures presented by a growing and ageing population, with more staff to support those living with long term conditions.
In addition, the Minister announced that £1.25million from the Transformation Fund would be invested in District Nursing and Health Visiting services, putting more nurses on the ground.
The Minister said: “If we are to address the challenges we face in the health service we must continue to invest in prevention and early intervention. These investments from the Transformation Fund will do just that – ensuring there is the capacity in our nursing and GP services to provide high quality care to those who need it.”
Notes to editors:
1. In October 2015, the GP-led care Working Group was established to consider how to address the pressures facing GP-led primary care services to ensure that they are able to meet the challenge of rising demand now and into the future.
2. The working group includes representation from the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, Royal College of General Practitioners, the Northern Ireland GPC, the Royal College of Nursing and Health and Social Care Trusts.
3. The key issues the Group focused on were building a stable GP workforce, GP training, the structures and teams to support GPs, developing a sustainable out of hours service, innovation, infrastructure improvement, quality and integration of services, population health and wellbeing and improving patients experience.
4. The £30million Transformation Fund, which was announced on 2 March 2016, will be invested in projects and initiatives which are focussed on innovation, prevention and collaboration within the health and social care sector.
5. The level of General Medical Services funding has increased over recent years with investment of approximately £6million in 2013/14, a further £3million in 14/15 and up to £15million in 15/16, including Financial Transactions Capital.
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