A shortage of GPs and an increase in the type of work they are required to do will ultimately affect patient care unless addressed, it has been claimed.
Ulster Unionist MLA Jo-Anne Dobson was speaking following a visit to the Waterside Practice at Portadown Health Centre - one of many local GP surgeries she has visited recently.
Mrs Dobson met Dr Alison Troughton from the practice as well as its business manager David Thompson. She was accompanied by her uncle, retired Portadown GP Dr Willie Dobson, and the chairman of the Royal College of GPs in Northern Ireland Dr John O’Kelly.
The UUP’s health spokesperson said GPs are coming under “increasing and unsustainable pressures”.
She explained, “The current shortage of new GPs, more complex medical needs and healthcare moving away from hospitals and into the community are three of the many factors which are leading to our GPs coming under unsustainable pressures.
“In short, their workload is rising rapidly but the support they receive from government to look after us is not.
“I have met with many of our local GPs and am getting the same worrying message – if left unaddressed these pressures will impact negatively on how care is delivered to patients – and in some cases it already is.”
Mrs Dobson said she had taken up a number of issues with the Health Minister on behalf of the Royal College and the GPs she had met with and will continue to lobby for additional support for doctors.
She said, “Looking to the future, we need to see a long-term strategy to support, retain and expand the number of GPs in Northern Ireland as well as a concerted effort to improve the premises that GP services are provided from.
“I was delighted to be joined on my visit by Dr John O’Kelly, who is a practising GP, to hear first-hand about ‘Put patients first: Back general practice’, a campaign endorsed by GPs across Northern Ireland and one which I fully support.”