By Rebecca Black
The investment of £26.76 million in GP services has been welcomed as good news for patients across Northern Ireland.
The Department of Health has said the money will be invested in GP services across 2019/20.
The department's Permanent Secretary, Richard Pengelly, detailed how the funding would be spent.
"These significant investments reflect the crucial role general practice has in delivering health and social care to meet the needs of patients now and into the future," he said.
"The 2019/20 funding includes up to £18.17 million for the continuation and acceleration of transformation projects commenced in 2018/19, including up to £11.1 million to support the ongoing roll-out of multi-disciplinary teams; £3.5 million for a range of elective care services delivered through general practice; and investment of £1.1 million in advanced nurse practitioners.
"Multi-disciplinary team working involves advanced nurse practitioners, physios, social workers and mental health support staff working alongside GPs to deliver the right care in the right place and at the right time.
"A further £2.19 million will be available to support the roll-out of the next stage of the practice-based pharmacist scheme, bringing the total recurrent investment to nearly £13.19 million and over two thirds of the 300 pharmacists planned for general practice now in post.
"Up to £3.9 million will be available for investment in GP premises, with a focus on supporting the delivery of multi-disciplinary team working and the expansion of training in general practice.
"In addition, up to £2.5 million will be used to address demography and other pressures in general practice."
Dr Alan Stout, chairman of the BMA general practitioners committee in Northern Ireland, welcomed the announcement as "good news for GPs, for primary care and for patients across Northern Ireland".
"The transformation money that has already been spent is beginning to make a difference for GPs, helping to ease their workload and allowing frontline services to patients to be spread across a range of health staff who are best suited to addressing a patient's needs," he said.
"This increased investment will mean that more GP practices will be able to begin the process of transforming the way they deliver services.
"Patients can now see that an appointment with the GP is not always what they need, and advanced nurse practitioners, physios, social workers, mental health support staff or pharmacists can provide them with the care and information they need, with the GP always there as part of that multi-disciplinary team.
"We also welcome the increased funding for GP premises which will be fundamental to providing sustained and enhanced primary care, along with the other areas such as elective care services that will be so important in how we transform and change how we think about and deliver healthcare in the future.
"The past few years have been very challenging for general practice, with many GPs feeling disillusioned and despondent.
"As a profession we always strive to provide the best possible service to patients and this announcement, along with completion of the roll out of MDTs in the next few years, will help sustain primary care and enable it to become a strong foundation for the future of delivering and transforming care to the whole population."