Northern Ireland

GP surgeries: Health Minister announces £10m 'loan' for refurbishments

A doctor checks a patient's blood pressure Image copyright PA
Image caption GP practices will have to apply for the money that can be used to expand and refurbish premises

GP surgeries across Northern Ireland are to benefit from £10m of funding, the health minister has announced.

With many surgeries cramped and dilapidated, the money will be used to expand and refurbish premises, according to the Department of Health.

GP practices will have to apply for the money, which is effectively a loan from the department.

The British Medical Association (BMA) has said the investment "acknowledges the hard work of GPs".

It added that GPs had "come up with new ideas to help address the impact of years of under-funding and inadequate workforce planning".

Convenient

But it said there was still a "real threat" of practices closing as doctors "retire and cannot be replaced".

"We are keeping a close watch on this issue, particularly in the border counties where many practices are vulnerable to collapse," the BMA said.

Image copyright Pacemaker
Image caption Simon Hamilton said the investment would help to "address rising demand" at GPs' surgeries

To expand the role of GP practices, there is to be further investment in practice-based pharmacists.

That package, previously announced by Health Minister Simon Hamilton, is worth more than £7m.

Pressures

Mr Hamilton said the investment "meets the recommendation of the independent Doctors and Dentists Review Board".

"[The investment] will help to address rising demand and will ensure we adopt innovative new ways of working such as online appointment booking and repeat prescriptions," he said.

"By working at scale through federations, our GPs can help us ensure services are delivered in the community and help address some of the pressures facing our hospitals."

An extra £1.25m is being made available to extend the care of patients at home.

That could, for instance, pay for a nurse to work additional hours within a health trust.

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