A new era in GP care in Northern Ireland is an important step closer, with the first stage of a major transformation initiative confirmed.
It has been decided that GP Federations in Down and Derry/Londonderry will be the first to benefit from Multi Disciplinary Teams (MDTs) at their practices.
Multi Disciplinary Teams involve the establishment of practice-based physiotherapists, mental health specialists and social workers at GP practices - working alongside doctors and nurses to better meet the needs of the local population. This model includes significant investment in additional nursing specialist roles such as health visiting and district nursing.
They are a key example of health and social care transformation, helping provide more care closer to people’s homes and improving access times. Evidence suggests this approach will see patient issues resolved more quickly, for instance by reducing the need for referrals and appointments elsewhere. This will also ease demand pressures on hospitals.
The approach will also see practice teams supported to identify opportunities for early intervention. Patients will be supported in managing long-term conditions and dealing with lifestyle issues which can impact on their health.
Health and Social Care Trusts are working with GP Federations to start the recruitment processes for these new roles, with the new services expected to become available in the coming months in Derry and Down.
It is expected that in the region of 200 posts will be created across both areas.
Down GP Federation area covers around 75,000 patients and includes Saintfield, Crossgar, Killyleagh, Strangford, Downpatrick, Ardglass, Ballynahinch and Newcastle.
Derry GP Federation area covers in the region of 200,000 patients and includes Derry, Claudy, Limavady and Strabane.
The next phase of the planned province wide roll-out will begin with West Belfast.
The Department of Health announced the MDT initiative in May as part of a £15m transformation fund allocation to primary care.
The Department’s Permanent Secretary Richard Pengelly today said: “This is a very important step forward in the transformation journey.
“I look forward to MDTs being extended to other GP federations in the years ahead.
“By bringing in new professional roles to work alongside and support GPs and nurses, we can really improve care in communities and neighbourhoods.
“This will help us move to a system focussed on physical, mental and social wellbeing rather than just managing ill-health - with a greater focus placed on prevention and early intervention.”