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Causeway GP Federation Newsletter

13 OCTOBER 2023

A note from Chair - Dr Johnny Burns Colleagues,

I trust this newsletter finds you well. As the Federation, our unwavering commitment remains to provide steadfast support to Practices during these challenging times.

Currently, we are actively engaged in collaborative efforts with pharmaceutical companies to execute various projects, in partnership with Screen Clinical, we are diligently progressing a project focused on Diabetic patients with cardiovascular and Renal risk factors across 11 Practices. Furthermore, discussions are underway regarding a Heart Failure project, aimed at enhancing project-based skills for our GPPs. Regrettably, this initiative has faced delays due to unforeseen circumstances.

I extend my gratitude to the Executive Board for granting approval to recruit two new 2-year posts for GPPs. These appointments will not only assist in backfilling but also in catering to additional work requirements within Practices. While our current budget accommodates this expansion in the short term, I remain optimistic about the possibility of augmenting our GPP workforce in the future through a comprehensive Business plan once fiscal constraints ease.

Our Multidisciplinary Teams (MDTs) and GPPs continue to exert commendable efforts within Practices, and I take this moment to express my heartfelt appreciation for their dedicated work. On a related note, I wish to acknowledge the impending retirement of Alex Larsen, our Social Work Lead and a staunch supporter of our MDT. Interviews have been conducted to fill this role, and we anticipate seamless transition and progress in line with the work overseen by Alex.

Despite our earnest endeavours, our Elective care work has encountered limitations in its capacity. This situation is disheartening for all involved, particularly considering our standing as a high-performing segment within the NHS. We persistently advocate for the restoration of sessions and will continue to strive for their reinstatement at the earliest.

In acknowledging the prevalent challenges faced by Practices across the country, particularly concerning contract hand backs, we are grateful that thus far, Causeway has been exempt from such experiences. I strongly encourage any Practices grappling with difficulties to reach out to the Federation, LMC and local SPPG representatives at an early stage. While we possess limited powers to intervene, we are committed to offering any possible support or facilitating appropriate guidance to address their concerns.

Thank you for your continued dedication and collaboration. Together, we shall overcome these challenges and emerge stronger.


MDT Senior Mental Health Practitioners

David McAuley - Senior Mental Health Practitioner

The Senior Mental Health Practitioners continue to aim to provide a high standard of accessible, expert service, within the GP Practices in Causeway GP Federation.

Each practitioner will contact around 50 patients a week, either face to face or by telephone, offering approximately 60% of our appointments as initial assessment/new patient slots.

It has been a very busy quarter with the team working in collaboration with service users and our NFSU colleagues on an exciting quality improvement project. It will be complete by early November and we look forward to sharing the benefits of this work with patients, professionals and carers.

We have completed training on Trauma Informed Practice and hosted a PBL event at the Lodge Hotel with our MDT Social work and Physiotherapy colleagues. This event saw a focus on self-compassion and we thank Holly Perrealt of Recentre for her delivery of the course.

We also continue to work closely with the Causeway Coast and Glens Council and the MDT SWs to provide services for refugees and asylum seekers.

Congratulations to Senior Mental Health Practitioner Grainne Black on the birth of her baby boy Charlie.

We would also like to take this opportunity to wish our friend and colleague Paul Reid a full and speedy recovery. 💙

We welcome any suggestions as to how we could improve our service so please get in touch if there is anything you would like to discuss.


General Practice Pharmacists

Donna Campbell - Lead General Practice Pharmacist

The General Practices Pharmacists completed a workload audit over the period of one week in June. On average, each pharmacist completed 7 medicines reconciliations of hospital letters, issued 34 repeat/repeat acute prescriptions, made/received 6 telephone calls and answered 2 queries per half day session. That’s around 400 patient interventions per week per full time pharmacist!

In addition to this, the team also participated in other activities such as clinical reviews (including diabetes/hypertension/lipid/asthma/COPD & pill reviews), training, DOAC and amber drug registers, QI projects, travel vaccine advice, synchronisation of repeat medication, new registrations, cost effective switches, practice meetings, prescribing visits, drug shortages and recording of emergency supplies from community pharmacies.

The results of this audit demonstrate the huge impact that our GPPs have on General Practice. The team works incredibly hard to improve the safety, efficacy, and cost effectiveness of the medicines that our patients take. Thank you everyone!

Since my last update in June, I am delighted to announce that 3 of our 5 new prescribers are running patient-facing clinics. Jenny Chartres and Hannah McCausland are running hypertension clinics in Rasharkin and Mountsandel and Natasha O’Neill is running a pill review clinic in Lodge Health. Thank you to those surgeries for giving your GPPs the opportunity to review patients face to face!

Congratulations to Diane Mullan who was shortlisted as a finalist in the recent ‘Recognising Achievement Awards’ for GPPs in Northern Ireland! Diane presented her amazing achievements in the review and reduction of tapentadol prescribing for patients in Bushmills Medical Centre, making it to the final 3 for ‘Improving Medication Safety’.

Well done Diane!

Finally, welcome back to Leona Quinn, returning from maternity leave after the birth baby, Caitlίn, last September. Great to have you back!

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.


PBL - Federation Education

PBL - Martin Okane

Our recent PBL on 20th September 2023 was a full event with 4 different breakaway groups for Admin staff / Nursing /MDT and GPs.

The following event on 29th November will be dedicated to Trauma for all disciplines.

We continue to be grateful for such a high turnout and positive feedback.


MDT - First Contact Physiotherapists

Suzanne Kennedy - Consultant Physiotherapist

The first regional networking day for First Contact Physiotherapists which took place on the 15th June 2023 at Balmoral Hotel was very successful with over 90 delegates attending. There was representation from SPPG, Department of Health, Trusts and GP Federations which provided a great opportunity to showcase the innovation, implementation and impact that FCP’s are having within primary care. We have established several regional working groups to collaborate and identify key priorities for developing FCP in primary care.

The first quarter score card from April to June this year reflected the ongoing hard work of the FCP team with 6588 appointments being provided within the Causeway Federation and 93% of patients being managed within primary care. Three quarters of our consultations are delivered face to face and one quarter being delivered virtually.

The regional outcomes for FCP presented at the networking day were very similar across all the federations which is reassuring that we are working similarly across the province.

Feedback from patients continues to be very positive and we are currently completing the annual patient satisfaction survey with an aim to get a minimum of 100 responses across all the GP practices to see if any improvements can be made to our service.

We have some staff changes coming up and we would like to thank Dawn Aiken and Shannon Graham who are leaving us, for their hard work and contribution to the FCP team and we wish them well for their future endeavours. 🙏

The MDT team are keen to do a quality improvement project in primary care so the leads have embarked on an eight month QI level 2 training programme starting this month and we will scope some ideas to take forward for this.


MDT - Social Work

Peter Reid - MDT GP Social Worker Lead

It has been another busy quarter for the MDT Social Workers in Practice as the pressures on our patients lives continue to grow with financial strains, waiting list pressures and increasing stretched social care services. We continue to try to utilise all resources available to support our patients and with direct contact, community development projects and partnership working or signposting to community and voluntary sector, our patient contacts continue to grow. We remain stretched in terms of staffing but continue to try to share resource around as many practices as possible to spread the reach of the service as safely and efficiently as we can.

There remain many positives and the now well established Causeway Neurodiversity support group continues to grow and serve a valuable role in supporting the individuals and families affected. There are a multitude of support groups established across the federation area that our Social workers facilitate from walking groups, to men’s groups to coffee mornings all with considerable impact on the lives of those involved.

We had another successful round of seed funding in the last few months and many more exciting projects will hopefully stem from this. Successful bids included those supporting carers, bereavement support, menopause support group and ongoing support for Ukrainian families in our area. This community development work remains a mainstay of our role and we already see the benefits of many of these projects in improving the overall ‘health’ of our communities in a more holistic way.

Finally, it is with sadness that we announce Alex Larsen’s retirement this month. As our first Social Work lead for the federation, Alex has been a fantastic asset in establishing and developing the role of social workers in our practices. His boundless energy, enthusiasm and drive to grow and prosper the service have been invaluable in the early stages of the project. As if establishing a new way of working in a completely new role wasn’t challenging enough, he had to contend with a global pandemic just months after starting and subsequent financial restraints and blockages to recruitment and roll out. We thank him for his hard work, dedication and commitment to fighting the many obstacles he encountered to establish the service we have today. I know he was frustrated that he wasn’t supported from board and trust level to fund full roll out to all our practices, but he constantly strived to get additional recruitment at every opportunity and grew and managed our very able team to maximise the service within these limitations.

We thank him for all his hard work and wish him a very long and heathy retirement!


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 Causeway GP Federation please contact NFSU on

Project Coordinator Update

Rachael Elliot - Project Coordinator

Improving outcomes for patients living with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) in the Causeway Federation.

Causeway GP Federation have been working collaboratively with Screen Clinical and AstraZeneca to introduce this project to all our Causeway GP Practices.

11 Practices have engaged with the project and this project is currently underway and on target to complete before the end of 2023.

The pandemic has been hard on both practices, patients and caused us disruption to normal delivery of services. Additionally, new NICE guidelines have highlighted that we need to be reviewing patients on a broader spectrum than just glycaemic control in relation to co-morbidities and preventing longer term complications. With this in mind, we wanted to source additional resource for you. Our aim is to provide you with additional clinic resource in the practice and not add to it!

The FSU, Dr Connor & Dr Burns have been working hard behind the scenes to get this project off the ground to establish this support to our practices.

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. They have video conference cameras/ TVs which can be connected 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.

Causeway Executive Team & MDT Leads

Dr Johnny Burns Chair

Dr Ian Hadden – Treasurer

Dr Martin O Kane – GP Education Lead & Executive Member

Dr Stephen Bailie – Executive Member

Dr Shauna Fannin - Executive Member

Dr Brian Connor – Executive Member

Dr Turlough Tracey - Executive Member

Dr Peter Campbell – Executive Member & FCP GP Lead

Dr Paul Martin – Executive Member & Mental Health MDT GP Lead

Dr Peter Reid – MDT Social Worker GP Lead

Donna Campbell- Lead GPP Pharmacist

Jane Reynolds- Mental Health Manager

Suzanne Kennedy – Consultant FCP

Post filled (name TBC) - Social Work Lead



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 warmth 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 45min 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 100's 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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