Doctors leaders have expressed shock at the Department of Health’s decision to cut GP funding by £1 million, given the ongoing and deepening crisis in primary care.

The cut is a result of the Department of Health’s decision to adjust the rate at which they pay doctors for meeting Quality Outcome Framework (QOF) targets against rising practice list numbers. List sizes act as a denominator in the QOF calculation resulting in a smaller quantum for achieving targets. 

Speaking about the Department’s decision, Dr Tom Black, chair of BMA Northern Ireland’s general practice committee said, “We have been negotiating with the Department on behalf of our members, and after many weeks of negotiation the Department of Health have decided to pay QOF on the basis of the increased list sizes and as a result 80% of practices will lose funding. 

“There are many practices that will lose more than £20,000 and the total loss to general practice will be £1 million.[1]This is not profit for GPs, but money that is reinvested in their practices through employing staff, investing in premises and technology and meeting the financial overheads of running a practice.

“This reduction in payments is happening because the average list size in Northern Ireland has increased due to collapsing practices and mergers, and given that the practice list size acts as the denominator in the payment calculation it results in a smaller quantum for QOF achievement. There may be other confounding factors related to prevalence and mergers but essentially this is a statistical quirk and the department have decided to take advantage of this by cutting GP funding and saving themselves £1 million.

“The same issue happened in England but their government moved rapidly to cover the gap, so the decision of our Department is not only astounding but is a kick in the teeth for GPs in Northern Ireland who are keeping a GP service afloat despite having the smallest workforce and the lowest funding. Funding evidence coming from our accountants indicates that we're being funded at a rate of £101 per patient per year compared to England £142. 

“GPs across Northern Ireland will be rightly furious about this decision and are now being forced to take further action. We will bring a possible action GPs can take to our NIGPC meeting on Wednesday outlining how practices can make cutbacks to their services equivalent to the cuts in funding that they will now suffer.”

[1] The spend last year was £30.4million compared to £29.4 million this year. 

For further information please contact:

BMA Northern Ireland, 16 Cromac Place, Cromac Wood, Ormeau Road, Belfast BT7 2JB
028 9026 9666   (switchboard)
028 9026 9672   (direct line)
074 0880 9519   (mobile / out of hours)