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Antrim Ballymena GP Federation Newsletter

13 OCTOBER 2023

A note from Chair - Alan Lewis


Thanks to all who attended the recent federation education event and to those who stayed on for the AGM. I hope the updates were useful and the presentations are available on request from NFSU.

There is not a lot to update you on at the moment apart from to advise that work continues through the Northern Trust / GP partnership to establish portfolio opportunities and locality MDT options. We are hoping to pilot alternative pathways for physiotherapy in Antrim / Ballymena area but this is a work in progress. I will hopefully have more of an update regarding these for our next newsletter.

I want to welcome Dr Christine Cobain to the role of GP nurse clinical lead and have no doubt that her role with this team will enhance the current GP nurse knowledge and skills.

There was some discussion at the end of our AGM re options for our profession going forward and we hope that following the annual conference of NI LMC on Saturday 18th November 2023 we will have more information and an idea regarding the direction of travel. The lack of local government hinders progress unfortunately.


Trainee General Practice Nurses

Anne Witherow - Federation Lead Nurse

Antrim and Ballymena GP Federation has recruited 9 General Practice Nurses with 7 having completed their training and two having commenced in September 2023.

The GPNs will be actively contributing to the flu and covid vaccine campaign as required by their practices.

In the incoming months, the qualified GPNs in conjunction with their practices will be working towards quality improvement plans on aspects of the management of the long -term conditions.

Several training and education events have been held covering a range of clinical topics and with invitations to general practice nurses to join the sessions.


Federation Education

On the 13 September 2023, we held the Antrim Ballymena Best Practice Eduction Event and AGM at Tullyglass House Hotel.

1️⃣ Dr John Goodrich opened the event for GPs and Practice Managers.

2️⃣ Next, we had Paula Douglas from Practice Improvement & Crisis Support team talking to our GPs & Practice Managers.

✅ Federation led

✅ Aim of supporting GP Practices in NI

✅ Practice recovery plan

✅ Practical help

3️⃣ Then we had Ulster University and Queens University! Dr Burns, Dr Ewan, and Prof Hart, were here to talk about the Ulster University Graduate Entry Medical school and implementation of the C25 Curriculum at Queens University and how they work together on GP Placements, share agenda, dialogue and lobbying with DoH/SUMDE. 📚

4️⃣ We then had Dr John Goodrich back up to present ideas for GP practice improvement. Local GP practices got the chance to collaborate and share best practice⚕️and Mr Neil Martin from NHSCT Director of Strategic Planning and Performance talking to our GPs about portfolio opportunities. 🩺


General Practice Pharmacists

Susan Sproule - GPP GP Lead

Embarking on the new year with a decidedly positive outlook, our General Practice Pharmacists (GPPs) coverage has reached commendable heights. Among our 23 GPPs, 19 have achieved independent prescriber status, two are currently undergoing IP training, and the remaining two are enrolled in a foundation course, with plans for subsequent training.

Notably, our GPP team's exemplary efforts have been recognised through prizes for their groundbreaking deprescribing project, which is now being systematically implemented.

Additionally, we have successfully executed a comprehensive SABA reduction program, demonstrating our commitment to enhancing patient care.

The initiation of a heart failure pilot program holds promise for wider adoption, further solidifying our dedication to advancing healthcare practices.

However, as we navigate the future, challenges in terms of funding persist, and ensuring meaningful career progression for our GPPs remains a key focus. Engagements with the SPPG for supplementary GPP coverage underscore our proactive approach to expanding our impact and influence in the realm of general practice pharmacy.

Furthermore, on September 25th, 2023, we thanked out Pharmacists on World Pharmacy Day. This occasion served as a moment of reflection on the crucial role they play in healthcare and an opportunity to appreciate their collective accomplishments.


Federation Elective Care Services

Conor Gorman - Deputy Clinical Director for Elective Care

No doubt most of you will be aware of the recent draconian cut to funding for GPECS. It’s hard to believe that just over six months ago we completed the training of a further 8 GPs to gold standard level as vasectomists, we had finalised a training programme to allow any GP to upskill through our clinics, were progressing towards managing low risk skin cancers through our surgical service and had recently won a national award in dermatology .

During the summer months we were informed that all services would have funding cut by 50% until March 24, apart from the vasectomy service which would have no funding beyond November 2023. By the time we were informed of these cuts, they were already in place as of the start of July, despite clinics being booked 8 weeks in advance through the summer. The GPECS team were at no stage consulted or asked for input regarding the decision to cut funding, its timing or scope.

A fundamental requisite for all our services is robust clinical governance and with no guaranteed funding for vasectomy beyond November 23, it was felt that clinical governance would be compromised and thus the decision was taken to close the service. All attempts to secure additional funding for vasectomy have so far been fruitless.

We are currently waiting to hear from SPPG what their plan is for the patients still on the vasectomy waiting list. GPECS will strive to ensure that our patients are transferred in a fair and open manner. However, given the current state that secondary care waiting lists are in, I suspect that de facto there will be no ability for our patients to have timely vasectomy within the NHS in Northern Ireland. This poses an equality issue, in that only females can now access sterilisation which we know carries a greater risk. It is incredulous that the NHS has invested tens of thousands of pounds training GP’s who want to work in the NHS only to close this option to them.

Our other services [Dermatology, Gynaecology, MSK and Surgical service] will continue until March 2024 by which time we are hoping that the SPPG will have secured ongoing funding. We would encourage you to continue to refer into these services despite the longer waiting times as these are still much shorter than most of those in secondary care.

GPECS had seen over 63000 patients through our clinics, with consistently positive patient feedback. It is exasperating to witness the dismantling of innovative, successful and viable services {secondary care cost of vasectomy £1397 compared with £329 in primary care}. That GP services are being cut to prop up Red Flag and Urgent referrals may be a sad reflection of a failing Health Service lacking leadership at the highest levels.

Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank all the practice administrative staff, practice managers, nurses and GP’s who have gone above and beyond to make these services the success they are. It has only been through their commitment that these services were developed, relaunched in the midst of Covid [long before secondary care] and continue to provide high quality care as is reflected in patient feedback. Our practice staff and clinicians are the bedrock upon which we proved that Primary Care could deliver innovative care to our patients.


Northern GP Federation Support Unit (NFSU)

If you have any questions, feedback or suggestions for Antrim Ballymena GP Federation please contact NFSU on

Project Coordinator Update

Rachael Elliot - Project Coordinator

Naomi Hutchinson NFSU Project Coordinator is on maternity leave and we are delighted to let you know she has had a baby girl, Mya, who are both doing amazing. 💗

Rachael Elliott will be covering for Naomi during this time, most of you will have already met me by now and as always if you have any ideas/projects you wish to share please do not hesitate to contact me on or 02896208333.


We are delighted to have almost all our Emis Practices joined up to the FSU contract for AccuRx. A platform to connect and communicate to patients which has a number of modules to help support Practices. Accurx | The simple way to communicate about patient care. NFSU hold the contract alongside Eastern, Western and Southern Federation Support Units, those who are in the contract provides practices with a large, reduced discount than purchasing this software alone.

If you wish to have any training on any of the modules or software, please do let me know and I can organise this.

Strategy afternoon

The NFSU recently held a strategy afternoon Thursday 5th October. Thank you to the guest speakers and to Dr John Armstrong MBE for facilitating. We had a number of GPs, Pharmacists, PM, Nursing, and FSU staff who attended.

NFSU Meeting Rooms

NFSU based at Galgorm Castle has two meeting rooms which can be used individually or opened to one large room. The have video conference cameras/ TVs which can be connect to laptops. We have coffee and tea making facilities and local catering companies nearby. We welcome any practice who wishes to use these rooms which are free of charge for any training/ meetings.

The large room together can hold up to 24 people.

If you wish to see pictures or book these please contact

Job advertising

The Federation website can host any of your GP Practice jobs on our website to get the reach to the public. If you wish to post any of your live jobs on our website please send the details to

Thank you.

Antrim Ballymena Executive Team Minutes

Antrim Ballymena Executive monthly team meeting minutes are available on our website for GPs to read at anytime. This page is password protected please contact us to receive this password.



NFSU Health and Wellbeing

🌟 We're thrilled to share the heartwarming success of our Macmillan Coffee Morning hosted by the Northern GP Federation Support Unit on September 28th, 2023! ☕️🍰

Our team came together for a fantastic cause, spreading kindness and raising an incredible £350 in support of Macmillan Cancer Support.

A big shout-out to everyone who participated and contributed to this meaningful initiative. 🌈💚 Thank you for joining us in supporting those who need it most! 🙏

The coffee morning was kindly sponsored by local businesses and suppliers. 🍰


Menopause Workshop

We are delighted to offer an online Menopause Workshop with Clare Hegarty Nutrition, that happens to coincide on World Menopause Day – Wednesday 18th October 2023.

Clare is a certified nutritionist and health coach, specialising in supporting perimenopausal and menopausal women by educating and guiding them through their menopause journey. Clare is passionate about improving women’s health and giving them the tools they need to thrive at every stage of life.

This will be a 1-hour online session which includes a 45 minute presentation with the opportunity for a 15-minute Q&A’s slot at the end. All topics being covered are included in the invite below.

Anyone wishing to join the Zoom workshop must register to confirm their attendance by clicking this link or on the poster.

Please could you register no later than 12 noon on Monday 16th October 2023.

We looking forward to seeing you and hearing from Clare. 💜


Wear it Pink Day

In honour of October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, let’s wear pink on Friday 20th October 2023, to show our support to those who have been affected by Breast Cancer, living with a diagnosis and whose memory we remember closely.

We are conscious that we have already fundraised in September for Macmilllan Cancer support. Therefore, this month, we want to raise awareness and show support by wearing pink.

This small gesture can start a conversation, remind someone to check in on a loved one or even make a donation.

So, ladies and gentlemen, please raid your wardrobe and don’t forget to take some pictures of yourselves and/or your team together and send them to us at that we can use for our social media platforms.

Also, it is important to note , if you have any concerns regarding Breast Cancer, please remember early detection saves lives:

💗Know what is normal for you

💗Know what changes to look for

💗Report any changes to your GP without delay

💗Attend routine screening if you’re aged 50 to 70

💗Learn your family cancer history

For more information, please access NHS - Common Health Questions


Who does what?

There is quite a few statutory and associated bodies in the HSC landscape. Here is a brief overview of the remit of each:

  • GP Federations are provider organisations. There are 17 Federations across Northern Ireland (our boundaries are co-terminus with ICPs) and 4 Federations Support Units, Northern, Southern, Eastern & Western. We work on behalf of our member practices to deliver services which will improve primary care for both patients and GP practices. A group of GP practices, aimed at addressing capacity and workload issues within general practice. By coming together within a largescale, primary care organisation, it enables economies of scale, not achievable by a single practice.

  • SPPG Strategic Planning and Performance Group (previously Health and Social Care Board) is a statutory organisation. They commission health and social care services for the population of Northern Ireland.

  • Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs) There are a total of 17 Integrated Care Partnerships (ICPs), collaborative networks of care providers, bringing together healthcare professionals (including doctors, nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and hospital specialists); the voluntary and community sectors; local council representatives; and service users and carers, to design and coordinate the delivery of local health and social care services.

  • NILMC - The Northern Local Medical Committee (NLMC) is the statutory representative body of general medical practitioners of all grades, principals, salaried, sessional and those in training. They are funded by voluntary levy contributions from GP practices and represent the views of our constituent members to the local integrated offices of the HSCB and through our office bearers and appointed members to the Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee(NIGPC) and to the senior management at the HSCB and Department of Health. They also represent general practice at interface areas with the local Health Trusts and other 3rd party and non statutory organisations. They act as an advocate and offer help on all matters with General Practice. They can offer advice and guidance on items as below and while not exhaustive highlights some of their roles - Disputes/queries between General Practices and other bodies, NHS contractual regulations/GMS contract, Liaison with Trusts and workforce planning ( Presently with representation with the NHSCT/GP Partnership), Facilitation with GP Federations, Guidance around practice based issues, with signposting to relevant supportive resources. Of specific note they do not give financial nor legal advice but highlight the relevant legislation and signpost to the relevant resources that are available.


Bespoke, engaging courses designed specifically for GP practice staff, delivered by expert trainers.

As all Practice Managers will be aware, the Federation have purchased a 3-year licence for each of our 73 GP Practices to have access to Practice Index Training for you & all your staff within your Practice. You should all have received a log in by this stage to access the portal. Practice Index Training - A modern approach to Primary Care training - Practice Index Training

✅ Active Signposting

✅Chaperones in General Practice

✅Complaint Management


✅ Correspondence Management


✅Dealing with Abusive, Aggressive and Violent Patients

✅Effective Recruitment

✅Having Difficult Conversations

✅Improving Communication (Staff and Patients)

✅Leadership in Primary Care

✅Receptionists in Primary Care

✅Understanding Medical Terminology

✅Telephone Triage for Receptionists

and 100s more exciting courses for your staff which you can see here -

Download PDF • 770KB

If you can’t find what you are looking for? – they will create it for you!


Contact us

As always if you have any questions for the FSU, please do not hesitate to contact the Federation Support Unit on or 02896208333

Follow the Federation on:



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