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gp with folderFebruary 3 2016

Northern Ireland has committed to investing £1.2 million each year towards 20 additional GP training places.

Described as the largest investment in GP training for over a decade, the funding will boost the numbers from the current 65 GP training places each year. Northern Ireland has the oldest GP workforce in the UK with a quarter of GPs aged over 55.

Health Minister Simon Hamilton said: “I have been engaging with GPs regarding the issues facing primary care including those associated with ensuring there is a sufficient supply of GPs. I recently discussed the matter in depth with the First Minister Arlene Foster who highlighted particular challenges in the west of the province.

“Northern Ireland has the best GP workforce in the world, but also the oldest in the UK. With increasing demand from an ageing population it is vital we continue to invest in our workforce if we are to ensure people can get an appointment with their GP when they need to.”

The Northern Ireland Government points out that level of General Medical Services funding has increased over recent years with investment of approximately £6 million in 2013-14, a further £3 million in 2014-15 and up to £15 million in 2015-16, including Financial Transactions Capital.

Doctors have responded positively to the announcement. Chair of the RCGP in Northern Ireland, Dr John O’Kelly, said: “We are delighted that the Health Minister has followed our recommendations and decided to resource 20 additional GP training places. It is encouraging that he has taken action to support our future GP workforce – but there is still a long way to go.

“There continues to be a significant shortage in the number of GPs in Northern Ireland and we need to do more to enable trainee doctors to choose general practice. A government report has recommended that GP training places should be increased overall to 111, with an initial increase from 65 to 80 places before August 2016. This new announcement commits to meeting this interim goal.”

However, he added: “Although the additional training places are very welcome, they do not fully meet the gap that has been identified within the GP workforce. It is essential that the government continues to invest in general practice to address the ongoing workforce shortage and other related pressures.”

Chair of the BMA’s Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee, Dr Tom Black, commented: “We are pleased to see an additional 20 training places for GPs in Northern Ireland and we would hope to see even more training places being funded over the coming years. We have met with the Minister on a number of occasions and it is good to see that he has listened to what we have had said and has taken action. We very much welcome this.”

Links:

DHSSPSNI announcement

RCGPNI comment

BMA comment

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