'Transformation' of GP services to begin in Down and Derry
PATIENTS in Co Down and Co Derry will be the first to benefit from a "new era" in GP care following a multi-million pound investment to improve community services.
The Department of Health has confirmed the two areas will be the first to roll out a new project that will involve teams of health professionals - including physiotherapists, mental health specialists and social workers - based at GP practices and working alongside doctors and specialist nurses.
With the north's waiting lists now the worst in the entire NHS, it is hoped the initiative will help reduce pressures in hospitals.
The scheme's money comes from an overall £100m "transformation" pot made available through the DUP/Tory confidence and supply agreement.
Earlier this year, there was criticism of a £30m investment from the fund being used to tackle waiting lists - with concerns raised over a 'sticking plaster' approach that did not 'transform' care.
Health trusts rusts are working with GP 'Federations' to start the recruitment processes for the surgeries, with services expected to begin in coming months.
Department officials say around 200 posts will be created.
Down GP Federation area covers around 75,000 patients and includes Saintfield, Crossgar, Killyleagh, Strangford, Downpatrick, Ardglass, Ballynahinch and Newcastle.
Its Derry counterpart has around 200,000 patients and includes Derry city, Claudy, Limavady and Strabane.
The next phase of the 'multi disciplinary team' project will take in west Belfast.
Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health, Richard Pengelly described the move "as a very important step forward in the transformation journey".