Northern Ireland news

Daisy Hill A&E and GP services to get funding boost

Daisy Hill hospital in Newry is at the centre of a campaign to retain its 24-hour A&E service

FAMILY doctors have welcomed an injection of £8.8 million in GP services announced today by the Department of Health.

The money includes £4.54m for the `Practice Based Pharmacist' scheme, designed to allow GPs to spend more time on diagnosis and treatment.

By the end of the year, there will be almost 200 pharmacists working across practices in Northern Ireland.

A further £1.8m will address "demographic pressures" on practices, such as rising populations and more people with long term conditions who need care.

A million pounds of the new money has been allocated to help cover the rising costs of medical indemnity cover, while £1.5m has been earmarked to "improve and expand practice premises".

It will be focussed on allowing practices to create space for multi-disciplinary teams and room to teach increased numbers of GPs trainees.

The Department of Health said it brings this year's total investment in GPs and related services to nearly £22m - the largest funding allocation for General Practice in the north since 2004.

It targeted £15m towards enhancing primary care from the £100m Transformation Fund last month targeted at helping GPs find new ways of working and supporting multi-disciplinary teams.

Dr Tom Black, chair of BMA Northern Ireland's general practitioners committee, welcomed `any extra money in general practice'

Dr Tom Black, chair of BMA Northern Ireland's general practitioners committee, said "any extra money in general practice is welcomed".

"GPs will be particularly happy to see further investment towards demography increases as our population is now living longer and with more complex health needs," he said.

"This is being felt acutely among working GPs as their numbers continue to dwindle across the country while patient numbers grow.

"The environment for primary care is still an extremely challenging one, yet despite this GPs remain committed as ever to providing the best possible service and level of care for their patients in these circumstances."

Meanwhile, the department confirmed it will inject £650,000 into Daisy Hill Hospital's A&E this year as part of a `long-term plan' to sustain and bolster urgent and emergency care.

The investment will modernise services for patient assessment, diagnostics, discharge and care in the community and strengthen "links between primary and secondary care".

It will also see the appointment of a new hospital director.

The Newry hospital will also be allocated £1m from the Southern Trust, to improve infrastructure at the site.

This will establish a new admissions and assessment unit, alongside the emergency department.

Southern Trust chief executive Shane Devlin said the investment is `the first stage of a viable long-term plan'

Last year, the trust highlighted difficulties in maintaining "a safe and sustainable" emergency department service, due to difficulties in staffing a viable consultant rota.

The Daisy Hill Hospital Pathfinder Group was established to provide engagement between staff and the community to find a solution.

Its work led to the investment package confirmed today.

Department of Health Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly said it shows "co-production in action - and delivering for everyone".

"Great credit and thanks must go to the pathfinder group, and to the workforce and community representatives who have helped make this happen," he said.

Southern Trust chief executive Shane Devlin described it as "the first stage of a viable long-term plan".

"All of us involved in the pathfinder process wanted the same thing - a service that would be sustainable for years to come," he said.

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