Local GPs are under resourced and under appreciated, MLA Jo-Anne Dobson said after meeting the Chair of the Royal College of GPs.
The Ulster Unionist MLA met with Dr John O’Kelly as she lobbies for improvements to primary care.
Backing both the British Medical Association (BMA) and RCGP, she wants increased support from the Stormont Executive to local GPs.
“For far too long our GP services have been left under resourced and under appreciated by the Department of Health. Our family doctors are the gatekeepers of our health service and many GPs, both privately and publicly, have told me the service has entered a period of crisis! This pressure being felt on staff is already apparent to people seeking an appointment with their family doctor.
“This has led to an impact on waiting times and growing pressures on our GPs with the long term prospects made worse by the fact that many GPs are set to retire in the coming years.
“Last January when I previously met with Dr O’Kelly I warned that a shortage of GPs and an increase in the type of work they are required to do will ultimately affect patient care unless addressed.
“Sadly, despite our continued campaign - including raising awareness and supporting the RCGP during May’s election campaign - precious little action has been taken and the crisis continues.”
She called for a long term strategy to support, retain and expand the number of GPs as well as a concerted effort to improve GP premises.
Recently Lurgan GP Dr Maurice Eakin said surgeries across the town were experiencing problems with a lack of available locum doctors to cover sick leave and a shortage of GPs.
Dr Eakin added: “There is a high percentage of GP’s in NI and in this area over the age of 50 who will be retiring in the next 10 years when they reach the age of 60.”
Dr Eakin said many GPs are working extensive hours with few breaks and some doctors’ health has been affected.
“People are waiting longer for appointments.”
His practice at High St Surgery caters for 9,500 patients, the second largest in the southern health trust with only three full time and three part time GPs.
“This is unacceptable. The health service is relying on the good nature of many front line staff,” he said.