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GPs threaten walkout in wake of election call

The chairman of the Northern Ireland General Practitioners' Committee Tom Black has said GP resignations are now inevitable
Gareth McKeown

NORTHERN Ireland GPs have threatened to leave the NHS in the wake of a snap Assembly election being called.

The news came on a day when the future of a Co Armagh medical practice was plunged into fresh doubt.

The GP contractor who had been due to take on Bannview Medical Practice in Portadown withdrew from his contract yesterday.

The surgery had been due to close last Friday before an eleventh hour reprieve.

Health Minister Michelle O'Neill said yesterday that "no decision" has been made to close the practice and said the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) would continue to manage the practice in the interim.

The development came as the chairman of the Northern Ireland General Practitioners' Committee Tom Black said general practice here is on the "edge of full-blown crisis" and the uncertainty at Stormont meant any deal to address the current issues was now unlikely without a budget in place or monitoring funding available.

"GPs across Northern Ireland have called for immediate investment to prevent the collapse of general practice here, and have taken the step of considering resigning from the health service to ensure this does not happen. If a rescue plan isn’t funded it means the proposed GP resignations are now inevitable," Dr Black said.

Before Christmas hundreds of GPs signed undated resignation letters to the NHS over working conditions and conducted a review, with a number of recommendations presented to the minister in December.

Last week Mrs O'Neill revealed that due to the political crisis at Stormont the publication of a new strategy to tackle hospital waiting times in Northern Ireland would be delayed until later this month and said there was "no longer an executive in place to agree a budget for an elective-care plan".

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