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Investment in GP Practices

Below is a brief overview on a range of programmes and initiatives being developed and implemented by the Strategic Planning and Performance Group of the Department of Health (SPPG) and our partners to help improve GP services.

Primary Care Infrastructure Development Programme

The  primary care infrastructure development programme (PCID) ensures that there is suitable accommodation for GP services to meet the current and future needs of people in Northern Ireland.

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Multi-Disciplinary Teams – MDTs

Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) involve the recruitment of physiotherapists, mental health workers and social workers to work alongside GPs and practice staff in practices. It also includes significant investment in additional nursing specialist roles such as health visiting and district nursing.

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GP IT Modernisation Programme

The GP IT Modernisation Programme is responsible for delivering a modernised GMS ICT infrastructure that will be the basis for future ICT developments that enhance the delivery of GMS Services.

It will be flexible to meet current and emerging requirements, both technically and service led. This will bring benefits of improved clinical care, ability to meet the changing requirements within GMS and provide safe integration with other HSC systems.

Two of the projects included in the GP Modernisation Programme include GP IT Systems Migration and GP2GP:

  • GP IT Systems Migration

The GP IT Systems Migration Project will deliver a number of significant IT improvements to GP Practices. The key elements of this Project include the migration of local practice servers, based in Vison and Merlok clinical systems and associated practice data to the BSO Data Centres, as well as the implementation of a Managed Virtual Desktop environment for all practices.

The GP IT Systems Migration Project will ensure a much more robust ICT environment for GP practices. Moving to a managed GP ICT environment in the BSO Data Centres will enable central management and support of the ICT environment, thus enhancing cyber security defences for GP systems and data.

  • GP2GP

The GP2GP Project will implement a solution that will enable the electronic transfer of patient records from one practice to another. This project will also implement a system in BSO Family Practitioner Services to enable FPS to receive and store patients’ electronic records using the GP2GP functionality.

Investment in telephony in General Practice

The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) provided funding for practices to improve their telephone system capacity through the GMS Telephony Grant Scheme 2020/2021. The HSCB secured non-recurrent funding for GP Practices to use towards telephony equipment purchased from 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021.The grant allowed funding towards the purchase of:

  1. A new VoIP/ VoIP ready telephone system
  2. Additional telephone lines to be added to the current telephone system
  3. Mobile phones and contracts for practice use

GP Online Services –

The SPPG has been working with nidirect to expand public facing online services and make them more readily available to patients. Booking a GP appointment and ordering repeat prescriptions online are now available from 215 of 321 GP surgeries.

  • Booking A GP Appointment Online

This service allows patients to find it easier to access their GP surgery services. It helps patients ‘manage’ their own appointments whilst supporting the reduction of missed appointments and avoiding long telephone calls. The service also enables the surgery to align its resources more appropriately including freeing up receptionists to carry out other duties.

  • Ordering Repeat Prescription Online

This service enables patients to have improved access to prescription services which will help them to better manage their health conditions. This service reduces patient dependency on GP surgery opening hours, travel time and availability of practice staff to take calls and process prescriptions orders.

GP Online Services from HSC Northern Ireland on Vimeo.

General Practice Nursing investment

The role of the General Practice Nurse (GPN) in GP practices is to assist in development of an enhanced GPN workforce within primary care at Federation level. To create additional nursing capacity for GPs to include childhood immunisations at Practice level by initiating a GPN model of delivery to meet the recommendations of a regional review. To enhance nurse led patient care, and ensure effective and efficient use of resources within the primary care setting.

There are 5 GPN schemes running across Federation areas; Ards, Armagh and Dungannon, Antrim and Ballymena, South West and West Belfast.

In 2021/2022 the funding provided for General Practice Nurse Investment is £1.7m.

General Practice Pharmacists

The Department of Health approved a Business Case allowing £17m funding to enable General Practice Pharmacy support to be placed in GP Practices across Northern Ireland.

Pharmacists in GP practices will allow GPs more time to spend with patients and improve patient outcomes.

It will also improve the safety of prescribing, reduce the level of errors and waste through managing prescribing systems, medical reviews and reconciliation.

This initiative reached the end of a 5 year implementation process in financial year 2020/2021. General Practice Pharmacists are now a part of the practice team in all contracting practices across Northern Ireland.

The current budget for 2021/2022 to cover 303 whole time equivalent General Practice Pharmacists is £18m.

Advance Nurse Practitioners

The Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), worked with local GP Federations, and a number of other bodies (Public Health Agency, Northern Ireland Practice and Education Council for Nursing and Midwifery, and the University of Ulster), planning the development and delivery of Advanced Nurse Practitioners in Primary Care

There are a total of 33 Advanced Nurse Practitioners located in 5 GP Federation areas.

Federation Area Number of ANPs
Derry 9
East Belfast 7
Armagh and Dungannon 7
Mid Ulster 5
Down 5

Role of an Advanced Nurse Practitioner:

    • Assess, diagnose, plan, implement and evaluate treatment/interventions and care for patients.
    • Clinically examine and assess patient needs from a physiological and psychological perspective, and plan clinical care accordingly.
    • Assess, diagnose, plan, implement and evaluate interventions/treatments for patients with complex needs.
    • Diagnose and manage both acute and chronic conditions, integrating both drug and non-drug based treatment methods into a management plan.
    • Prescribe and review medication for therapeutic effectiveness, appropriate to patient needs and in accordance with evidence-based practice.
    • Prioritise health problems and intervene appropriately to assist the patient in complex, urgent or emergency situations, including initiation of effective emergency care.
    • Assess, identify and refer patients presenting with mental health needs.
    • Support patients to adopt health promotion strategies that promote healthy lifestyles, and apply principles of self-care.

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