£10m fund to enhance GP surgeries in Northern Ireland

Cash is part of £15m funding package to support primary care providers

The Government has unveiled funding to enhance GP services in Northern Ireland

GP surgeries in Northern Ireland will share a £10m moneypot to upgrade and expand buildings.

Health Minister, Jim Wells, has announced a total funding package of £15m to invest in the delivery of primary care services.

£10m of this will be available to borrow against improvements to current premises. A further £350,000 is earmarked to meet the ongoing costs of these new facilities.

A further £3.1m will go towards improvements to out-of-hours GP services; £1.2m will help meet the rising demand for blood tests and other diagnostic work in the community; and £300,000 will be spent on recruiting and retaining GPs.

Wells said: “GPs across Northern Ireland provide a high standard of care to their patients, but I fully recognise the challenges faced by general practice in meeting rising demand for appointments and services.

"GPs play a pivotal role in delivering care closer to home, where it is safe and sensible to do so. This package of investment will help to address some of the current difficulties and plan for future challenges in general practice."

The estimated total number of GP consultations in Northern Ireland rose from 7.22million in 2003/04 to 12.71million in 2013/14, an increase of 76%,and demand for GP out-of-hours services has also increased 18% in the last five years.

In addition to investing new funds, Wells also announced he was cutting bureaucracy so more GP time can be spent with patients. He said: "GPs will now have 15 fewer government indicators to meet, meaning more time to spend with patients and less time filling in forms."

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