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GP shortage could see surgeries close

John Monaghan

A

LEADING GP has warned that a quarter of the north's surgeries could close in the next five years if the Department of Health "continues to bury its head in the sand" regarding a shortage of GP doctors.

As the NHS in England today unveils an immediate £10 million funding package to recruit GPs and with Scotland and Wales having similar plans in place, Dr Tom Black, the British Medical Association's committee chair in Northern Ireland, is calling on Stormont to follow suit to tackle the "workforce crisis". "About 86 GPs left last year.

A quarter of GPs are over 55 and are due to retire soon," he said. "If you had a GP post advertised here this week, you would have zero applications, everyone is going to Australia. There are 65 training places for GPs, and we need about 110, while only 33 doctors completed their qualifications as GPs last year. "We are paid well but the workload has doubled. It was about 1,500 patients per doctor when I started.

It is now 2,000, and in the next 10 years the number of people aged over 85 will double. Patients are already experiencing the effects of this pressure at their local surgeries." "GP work used to be conducive to family life. Then the European Working Directive came in and limited doctors to 48 hours, but it doesn't apply to GPs. When you are in Accident and Emergency you go home when your shift is over. There are very few locums and GPs are doing a lot of out of hours work."

Last month the Royal College of GPs in the north said that there was a shortage of 234 GPs, claiming that without "urgent action" that number could rise to 275 by 2020.

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