Leading article

Healthcare problems must be addressed

While the past month has been dominated by the likely repercussions of the vote to leave the EU, the everyday business of government has to continue.

It seems a world away in political terms, but on May 5 we elected a new assembly which resulted in a new set of ministers being appointed by the DUP and Sinn Féin.

The problems they face are just as pressing in the post-Brexit era as they were on May 5 but with an added dose of uncertainty thrown in.

We still do not know when Britain will finally leave the EU or what arrangements will be in place for that exit or even if there will be a United Kingdom at that stage.

However, the executive still has to ensure the smooth running of public services, the efficient expenditure of taxpayers' money and produce effective strategies for the future.

As always, health is a major issue and no one underestimates the difficulties facing the health service in Northern Ireland.

Warnings have been sounded for some time about problems experienced by GPs and now the British Medical Association (BMA) has said the executive is ``sleep-walking towards a crisis in primary care.''

According to the BMA, three quarters of general practices are struggling due to longer patient lists, gaps in staffing and increasing bureaucracy.

The organisation is asking patients to sign a petition calling on the minister to invest ten per cent of the healthcare budget in the GP service, train more family doctors and reduce paperwork.

The primary care service is hugely important in terms of how our health system works. The GP surgery is the first port of call for the vast majority of patients and is where they will receive treatment, referrals and a continuity of care throughout their lives.

Clearly, this is a service that needs to be sustained and the minister will have to look at the issues raised, particularly in relation to the recruitment and training of family doctors.

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