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DUP-Tory deal: Cash injection of £15m for GP practices

Increased funding has been announced for GP practices in Northern Ireland
Seanín Graham

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A MULTI-MILLION pound investment to improve how GP practices deliver services has been green-lighted.

The Department of Health has confirmed it will provide £15m towards the project from a £100m "transformation" fund made available through the DUP's pact with the Conservative government.

With the north's waiting lists now the worst in the entire NHS, it is hoped that community GP services will be radically improved to reduce pressures in hospitals.

A total of £5m will be directed toward setting up new teams of health professionals based at GP practices - including physiotherapists, mental health specialists and social workers - who will work alongside doctors and nurses.

Two months ago, there was criticism of £30m from the fund being used to tackle waiting lists - with concerns raised over a 'sticking plaster' approach that did not 'transform' care.

However, department chiefs have insisted that a reduction in spiralling waiting times is in line with reforms drawn up in the Bengoa report, which they say "cited the need to address waiting times as a stabilisation measure".

Other investments include:

- £15m for workforce development

- £30m to overhaul community and hospital services, including mental health and pharmacy. Cancer, stroke and paediatric services are also being targeted

- setting up stand-alone day surgery units to reduce hospital waiting lists

Dr George O'Neill, a Belfast GP, said he welcomed the cash injection as a "positive step" but accepted it will take time to see the benefits.

"At the moment we are all in our own little silos but the idea of these new GP practices is to bring lots of health professionals under the one roof," he said.

"It will take a lot of work but ultimately it will provide a better outcome for the patient."

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