Northern Ireland Update: April 2014

The findings of the Health Survey Northern Ireland 2012/13 were released earlier this month.  The annual survey seeks to gather patients’ views regarding their general health and their views on Health and Social Care Services including hospitals, GP Surgeries and Pharmacies. 

The results of the survey were extremely positive; 89% of patients who had visited their GP within the previous 6 months were satisfied with the care they received while 75% of patients who requested an appointment within 2 days were able to get one.  Health Minister, Edwin Poots, welcomed the results and thanked all those working within Health and Social Care for their “continued dedication to improving the care they deliver”.

Mr Poots also announced that an agreement has been reached regarding GMS contract revisions for 2014/15.  Negotiations had been taking place with the Northern Ireland General Practitioners Council (NI GPC).  The key issues on which agreement was reached include increased investment in General Practice and amendments to the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF).  Further details to follow.

Enhanced Services

The most recent enhanced service to be introduced is Northern Ireland Local Enhanced Service (NI LES) Integrated Care Partnerships (ICP) Risk Stratification and Proactive Care Management.  This aims to build on work already undertaken by practices under the ICP Engagement NI LES and will address the risk stratification and proactive care management of patients with complex needs eg patients with co-morbidities and/or those identified as being at high risk of emergency admission.  GP Leads and Practice Managers have attended an initial meeting where the specification of the NI LES, including the computer software which will be used for the data extraction, was discussed.

New Pilot Program

A small number of GP Practices in NI are taking part in a Prescribing Safety Indicators Pilot.  PRIMIS, a health informatics service, have developed a range of patient safety searches to identify patients where potentially high risk prescribing is occurring.  A total of 23 searches will be run on a quarterly basis over the period of one year.  Anonymised results will be fed back to the Medicines Management Team at the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB).  If the pilot is successful it may be rolled out across the country.

Hot Topic

Burning issues for Practice Managers over the past few months have included the confusion regarding the procurement of consumables for Treatment Rooms and proposed changes to the payments process for GP Practice Superannuation.

Procurement Process Update

Back in November 2012 the Health and Social Care Board wrote to practices outlining the new procurement process and funding stream for consumables used for GMS Services.  We were advised that the funding would be backdated to April 2012 but that it did not include funding for consumables required for enhanced services eg minor surgery nor consumables used in Health and Social Care Trust (HSCT) Treatment Rooms.  The new process has been fraught with problems.  The ordering process in itself has proved problematic with many Practice Managers reporting long delays in receiving orders, but the main source of confusion has been the lack of definitive guidance regarding which items should be funded by the GPs and which items are the responsibility of the HSCT.  Practices have also received invoices which pre-date April 2012 and invoices which are not clearly itemised, all of which have added to the confusion.  In February 2014 the Southern LMC advised Practices that at NI GPC’s insistence the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) have agreed to re-examine the issue so watch this space…

Last Word

And finally, proof that pester power really does work!  In November 2013 HSC Pension Service contacted practices to inform us that we would no longer be permitted to pay actual contributions on a monthly basis, but rather that we would be required to use the Payment on Account (POA) process.  This change would have meant increased administration for Practice Managers, particularly at the end of each financial year.  We failed to understand the rationale for this change, particularly as there had been no prior warning or period of consultation.  Individual Practice Managers and local Practice Manager groups bombarded HSC Pensions Service expressing their outrage and calling on them to re-consider.  Within less than a month HSC Pensions agreed to continue with a slightly revised version of the current system with the situation to be reviewed in a year.

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