A 10-year vision for general practice in Northern Ireland was today (20 January 2010) unveiled by GP leaders in a bid to tackle healthcare challenges head on and provide patients with continued access to the best possible services.
The Future of General Practice strategy, compiled jointly between the British Medical Association and the Royal College of GPs in Northern Ireland, examines current health service challenges such as diminishing resources and increasingly complex health needs of patients.
The strategy also outlines 10 areas in which action must be taken to ensure that general practice continues to provide high-quality healthcare for people throughout Northern Ireland.
Speaking at the launch in the Long Gallery, Stormont, Dr Brian Dunn (pictured), Larne GP and Chairman of the BMA's Northern Ireland GPC, said: "Primary care is the cornerstone of the health service within the UK. It offers high-quality care, and is constantly evolving to improve access and choice available to patients.
"This strategy offers the first genuine, strategic vision into how general practice can tackle challenges within our health system, while remaining focused its future development to ensure a high-quality service to the benefit of patients".
Dr David Johnston, Chairman of the RCGP in Northern Ireland, said that about 15% of all practices in Northern Ireland are single-handed, with 48% of practices having two or three GPs. He said that there is therefore scope to improve the organisation of general practice, for example by practices working together in a federated approach.
The report has been launched partly in response to the difficult financial climate, which has meant patients' more sophisticated expectations and complex health care needs will challenge general practice and how it delivers care.
The NI strategy says that to meet such challenges, GPs must continue to adhere to core values – key principles that ensure quality of service, value for money and an excellent patient experience.
Dr Dunn explained: "GPs provide ongoing care to patients and their families over many years. We want to see this continue, and believe that it is possible through actions such as continuing to improve service and accessibility, working in partnership with, for example, trusts and commissioners, and having sustained investment in premises, information technology and the primary care workforce as a whole".
A patient information leaflet entitled You and your GP has also been developed to highlight the central role that general practice has in healthcare.