Audit Office report must act as stimulus for change: Dodds

DUP Health spokesperson Diane Dodds has responded to the Northern Ireland Audit Office Report ‘Access to General Practice in NI’ launched on 20 March.

By Diane Dodds MLA

Upper Bann

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“This is a useful report which must act as a stimulus for change. It further emphasises that general practice needs fixed. We know patients can’t access care in a timely manner.

Technology needs to be embraced and better utilised. The morning rush for an appointment by phoning the practice is utterly unacceptable and would not be tolerated in other walks of life. The seventeen community-interest GP Federations could play a greater role, and providing indemnity for primary care and reinvigorating the Primary Care Infrastructure Development programme could also assist.

13 practice contracts were handed back in 2022-23 and there have been many more this year. That cannot continue and we must tackle fundamental questions including whether General Practice can be sustainable in its current form. Fewer and fewer trained GPs want to take on a partner role and have the responsibility of running a small business.

There are sufficient GPs on the Performers’ List that all patients ought to be able to receive a good service yet that is currently far from the reality. The increased number of GP trainees annually is welcome, but there are no guarantees that they will remain within Northern Ireland.

We have a large cohort of trained GPs in Northern Ireland who are choosing not to work in primary care, or only working very limited hours. There is justification for a bold substantive offer that could transform work-life balance in order to incentivise the return of some of this readily available valuable existing resource.

Multidisciplinary teams were initially funded through money secured by the DUP in the Confidence and Supply Agreement. This approach is fundamental to reform and it is a travesty that further practices have been denied the funding to have this rolled out across the province. Funding it should have been a priority and I would like to hear from the Department and the Minister about this.

All of these fundamental issues must be tackled if General Practice is to be an attractive option for doctors to pursue and for patients to see a real difference in the service they receive.”

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