11/03/2003

Primary care must be strengthened says Browne

The role of primary care has to be strengthened and expanded, NIO Health Minister Des Browne has told delegates at the ‘Primary Care-Moving Forward’ conference in Armagh today.

The conference was organised to enable members of the newly formed Local Health and Social Care Groups to come together to pool their knowledge and information and to exchange ideas for improving local health and social services.

Speaking at a conference in Armagh the Minister said: “Primary care must be central to the way in which our health and social services will work in the years ahead.”

Following the end of the GP Fund holding Scheme, 15 Local Health and Social Care Groups were formally established at the end of June 2002 with membership drawn from primary care professions, community and service users as well as Health and Social Service Boards and Trusts. The groups are intended to operate as Committees of Health and Social Services Boards and represent natural communities covering populations ranging between 60,000 to 200,000.

In praising those involved in the 15 new groups, the Minister said: “Local Health and Social Care Groups are an important step towards a more inclusive and integrated system for the planning, commissioning and delivery of services. I believe they provide an ideal forum for co-operation and partnership.

“I will do my best to ensure that the groups are given sufficient time and resources to meet the new challenges posed by taking on commissioning, clinical and social care governance and building a stronger primary care infrastructure in Northern Ireland.”

At present GPs are refusing to participate in the groups because of their concerns about the structure, composition and funding arrangements. The Minister met with GP representatives on January 15 to discuss their concerns and further discussions are to take place with departmental officials on March 21.

Commenting on the GP's boycott, the Minister said: “I hope GPs will recognise that Local Health and Social Care Groups can deliver improvements for their patients and that they will join with the rest of the primary care professionals to help make it happen.”

(GMcG)

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