The RCGPNI has been inviting MLAs to meet their local GPs and patients as part of a campaign between the College and the National Association for Patient Participation called ‘Put Patients First: Back General Practice.’ It is hoped that through visits to their local practices, politicians will gain valuable insight as to what life is like ‘behind the scenes’ in a GP surgery in the context of increasing underinvestment.
Mr McCarthy said: “From visiting Cuan Family Practice in Portaferry, I gained insight into patients’ experiences behind the scenes. I saw how GPs are coming under increasing pressure to deliver high quality care for patients in the context of a real terms cut in funding for General Practice. Patients, both within my constituency in Strangford and across Northern Ireland, deserve to have good access to their GPs and access to longer appointment times when appropriate. Far too often I hear from constituents complaining about waiting times and this needs to be addressed. This is why the Alliance Party and I support the RCGP’s call to ‘Put Patients First’ and invest in General Practice.”
The ‘Put Patients First’ campaign has been highlighting how General Practice receives only 8.39% of health service spending across the UK, and in Northern Ireland this figure was even lower at 7.96% in 2012/13. In real terms, funding for general practice in Northern Ireland has fallen by £21.20million between 2008/09 and 2012/13, a percentage decrease of 8.22%.
In response to the funding crisis in general practice, the ‘Put Patients First’ campaign is calling on the Government to ensure that 11% of the NHS budget is invested in general practice by 2017. Increased investment would help to urgently address issues around access to General Practice and to improve the standard of care which patients can expect from their local practice.
From L-R: Mr Kieran McCarthy MLA, Ann-Frances Byers (Practice Manager), Dr Michael Doyle, Ms Ashleigh Simpson (Policy & Public Affairs Officer, Royal College of GPs NI), Dr Mark McCoubrey