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GPs welcome extra funding but urge 'decision makers' to oversee healthcare transformation

Dr Grainne Doran from the Royal College of General Practitioners NI said short-term investment needed to be part of a long-term strategy

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THE body representing a majority of the north's GPs has welcomed extra cash for healthcare in the Secretary of State's budget.

The Department of Health allocation has increased by 5.5 per cent to £5.3 billion over the coming financial year, although the increase largely reflects rising costs rather than additional cash.

But Secretary of State Karen Bradley also earmarked an additional £100m, secured through the DUP's confidence and supply deal with the Tories, for the long-term transformation of the north's health service.

The regional arm of the Royal College of General Practitioners NI (RCGP NI) yesterday urged "decision makers" to press ahead with implementing the recommendations in the 'Delivering Together' and 'Systems: Not Structures' reports.

Its chair, Grainne Doran, said the entire health and social care system is "under incredible strain".

"Waiting lists for treatment are currently unacceptable and we would welcome action to help remedy this but it is important that any short-term investment is part of a long-term strategy," she said.

SDLP health spokesman Mark H Durkan warned that "handing political decisions on health to the Tories" was not sustainable.

"Ask any consultant, nurse or junior doctor in England if they think the Tories have been good for their health service – ask patients or ward nurses if they would willingly hand control of services over to Jeremy Hunt given any other option," the Foyle MLA said.

"The Tories in control of our health service is worst case scenario for patients and professionals."

Meanwhile, party colleague Claire Hanna warned that the extra £410m secured by the DUP is potentially in breach of the Good Friday Agreement.

"This budget has the fingerprints of one party from one tradition all over it and if that remains the case, then it's a substantial breach of the principle of power sharing in the Good Friday Agreement that the UK government is facilitating," she said.

When the South Belfast MLA's claim was put to the Northern Ireland Office it did not respond directly but said it wanted to see a devolved executive deliver the 2018-19 budget.

"It (the budget) is a balanced and appropriate settlement which protects and preserves key services right across Northern Ireland, though it would be open to a restored executive to consider and revise the position," an NIO spokesman said.

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