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  • Writer's pictureLove Ballymena

Our ‘Plan B’ for General Practice includes ACCESS – Dr Craig Wylie

Welcome to Duality Healthcare Galgorm

Welcome to Duality Healthcare Galgorm

“GP access is both the problem, and the solution to the problem."

The word 'crisis' is used so often nowadays to describe Northern Ireland’s NHS, it has lost all meaning.

Tragically, General Practice, which provides approximately 90% of daily contacts within the NHS, has witnessed a collapse of public confidence and satisfaction.

According to a recent survey:  

• 85% say it’s harder to book an appointment since the Pandemic 

• 76% worried about not being able to access their GP over the last year

• 72% are unsatisfied with local GP waiting times

• 47% are unable to get a routine appointment with their GP when needed

• 43% are unable to get an emergency appointment with their GP when needed

• 32% of patients have to ring on average more than 30 times to speak to their GP receptionist

• 20% have to queue for over 30 minutes to book an emergency appointment with their GP 

• 11% have to queue for over 1 hour to book an emergency appointment with their GP 

Dr Craig Wylie with some of the friendly team at Duality Healthcare Galgorm

Dr Craig Wylie with some of the friendly team at Duality Healthcare Galgorm

From my perspective as a GP, the headlines have brought me no comfort for the future of my profession, and each news story paints an increasingly bleak picture: 

• Up to 50 GP Surgeries in NI at risk of closure, with a further 30 'in crisis'

• A real-time investment cut of 7% funding to Northern Ireland General Practice

• Almost 20% of NI’s GP training places were unfilled this year

• Specialist GP Services have had their funding cut by 50% (including vasectomy, women’s health clinics including HRT and contraceptive assessments, musculoskeletal clinics including joint injections, and minor surgery)

• 17 GP Practices (5% of Northern Ireland’s total) have ‘handed back their contract’ in 2023

• Ballymena/Antrim Area has been the epicentre of 'contract handbacks' with five changes of contract announced in 2023 (Ballymena Family Practice, Bernaghmore Medical Practice, Kells & Connor Medical Centre, Galgorm Surgery, and Cullybackey Health Centre), and other practices are rumoured to be hanging by a thread. 

Dr Alan Stout, Chair of the British Medical Association’s Northern Ireland General Practice Committee, recently stated in an interview: “What we hear from patients, from politicians and actually from the Department of Health themselves, is that people just want access and they want our GPs and our practices to focus on being as accessible as possible... I’m not sure I’ve ever met anybody who disagrees that access is of the most fundamental importance in general practice for somebody who’s sick or perceives themselves to be sick... just remove the bureaucracy, remove the target driven culture and simplify it”.

The BMA’s 'plan to save general practice' was received by the Department of Health and the SPPG without consequence earlier this year, with the words 'access' or 'accessible' featuring seven times.

However, improving patient access was a feature of only 1 of the 11 core recommendations issued to GP Practices by the British Medical Association in recent weeks, in anticipation of another winter of discontent.

Struggling practices have been advised to:  

1. Limit workload and direct patients to other NHS services

2. Have no more than 25 patient contacts per day 

3. Rethink having an 'on-call' or 'duty' GP to deal with urgent requests 

4. Move to longer (15 minute) appointments as standard

5. Inform the SPPG of unsafe workloads

6. Consider establishing GP practice 'waiting lists' 

7. Push inappropriate transfer of work back to other NHS services

8. Direct some patient complaints towards politicians 

9. Consider closing their practice lists

10. Consider reducing their practice areas

11. Consider withdrawing from some optional services (that bring in additional money - e.g. vaccination programmes and extra nursing home visits) 

Dr Craig Wylie, Duality Healthcare Galgorm

Dr Craig Wylie, Duality Healthcare Galgorm

GP access is both the problem, and the solution to the problem. 

At Duality Healthcare, ACCESS is at the heart of our rejuvenated province-wide vision for General Practice. We are offering an on-demand, face-to-face, direct booking, affordable, fully private GP option to Northern Ireland across multiple locations. We have the capacity both to meet unmet demand for NHS GP services in local areas, and also provide urgent care and many additional services that would usually incur a wait on the NHS. 

We have 'removed the bureaucracy' and the barriers to seeing a GP - drop-in, telephone ahead or book online.

Our 'target driven culture' is not defined by the Department of Health in the 19-year-old contract that NHS GPs work within, but solely by our aim to provide each of our patients with high quality consultations, delivered by GPs who are happy at, and with their work.

We are not 'holding an NHS contract' or ‘taking over NHS GP practices’, and we receive no public funding.

The first patient we saw through our Galgorm clinic a few weeks ago was genuinely delighted to be able to see a GP face-to-face on their own terms, at the time that suited them, with no pushback. Relief at ease of face-to-face access to a GP has been a common theme among all the patients who have consulted in our new clinic so far.

There is a real appetite for change within the general population and within the profession. 

We are providing a new outlet for patients who may struggle with access to their own GP, or who need additional time or investigations. We can see them without having to resort to the use of NHS Out of Hours, or Emergency Services.

I am delighted to be involved in my capacity as Lead GP to bring this offering to our local community in Ballymena and beyond, and want to express my sincere thanks to all the staff who have been working with us to date. 

Both members and non-members can use our services.

We have set price points that are significantly cheaper than alternative providers, and even more so should you sign up for a membership, with individual plans starting at £6.99 a month and family plans starting at £14.99 a month (which covers two adults and unlimited children, aged 18 or below).

We firmly believe our pricing model enables people of all means to gain access to a GP they so desperately need. At Duality Healthcare our ethos is to ensure accessibility for all and we have a plan to suit everyone's needs. 

If people avail of our services then there is extra time within the NHS GP system for those who choose not to. This is especially the case here in the Ballymena area where I live and work, where GP access is a real concern for the average person.

A full list of our services, and membership details are available at:

MORE BELOW BY DR CRAIG WYLIE (Lead GP at Duality Healthcare Galgorm)


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