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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 Health and Social Care Board and our partners to help improve GP services.

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:

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.

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 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 – www.nidirect.gov.uk/gp

The HSCB 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.

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.

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.

Multi-Disciplinary Teams – MDTs

Multi-Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) involve the recruitment of practice-based physiotherapists, mental health workers and social workers to GP practices; these MDT members will work alongside GPs and practice staff with the aim of better meeting the needs social, physical and mental health wellbeing of the local population. This model also includes significant investment in additional nursing specialist roles such as health visiting and district nursing.

July 2018 saw the initial rollout of pilot areas, with GP Federations in Down and Derry/Londonderry to be the first to benefit from MDTs in their practices.  2019/20 to 2020/21 brought further expansion of the model into West Belfast, Causeway, Newry and District, North Down and Ards providing patient focused accessible care to population of c 600,000 with significant investment to date totalling £52.2m.  The project has recruited significant numbers of additional staff to work within GP practices, over 324 staff are already in post across 97 practices to improve mental, physical and social wellbeing of patients.

The MDTs remain a key priority within the health and social care transformation programme, helping provide more care closer to people’s homes and improving access for practice populations. Evidence suggests that this approach will see patient issues resolved more quickly, for instance by reducing the need for referrals and appointments elsewhere, easing demand and pressure on hospitals.

Plans are being developed to roll out MDTs across all 17 Federation areas.

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), is working 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:

More useful information