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Newsletter - Antrim Ballymena GP Federation

A note from Chair - Dr Alan Lewis

Dear Colleagues / Member Directors

It has been some time since we have circulated an Antrim / Ballymena newsletter and we have seen unprecedented changes since then. We have had further practice contract hand backs, creation of the Ballymena CIC (Community Interest Company) acting as a caretaker contract holder for 2 practices in Ballymena and Dalriada Urgent Care engaging in a new venture to manage and staff one practice and working alongside another to provide support. We have also seen local practices working closer together and considering practice mergers.

Change can leave us all feeling somewhat uncomfortable and under additional pressure, especially within neighbouring practices to those with contract hand backs. While the Ballymena CIC and Dalriada Urgent Care are helping to stabilise practices currently, neither of these are permanent solutions and we need to be considering alternative options and models. We are limited, once again, by the lack of MDTs in our area. I don't think there is a single solution that will fix our issues locally or regionally but we are hoping to have a PBL event in September which will also act as our AGM (slightly earlier in the year than normal) where we can get our heads together to discuss where we can go from here.

You will remember that all our local practices form the Antrim and Ballymena Federation and we (the executive board) take instruction from our members. While we are limited by the lack of funding and resource, if we are instructed to take forward a project an idea/ or pilot project we will endeavour to carry this out within these limitations and apply pressure for funding where possible.

I continue to attend regular meetings with the Northern Trust where we consistently share the pressures faced by us in Primary Care. We have recently been attending meetings looking at options where we can work in collaboration to try to make the Northern area more attractive for GPs to work in. Part of this is looking at options to develop locality-based MDT services and also exploring portfolio opportunities. We will update as work progresses in these areas.

I have recently become involved in the regional QI Steering group as Northern FSU representative and the hope is that we will be able to share some quality improvement that has worked for other practices. This is not to create additional work, it is focused on ways to improve GP wellbeing and to help primary care staff achieve a balance at work, creating a more enjoyable workplace and environment. I am excited (a little bit anyway!) to see where this leads and hopeful that we can share some really useful tips in the near future which will help us all!

Please feel free to get in touch with me via NFSU

if you have any good practice to share or projects that we could try to progress on the Federation's behalf. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing as many of you who can attend the event in September.


Trainee General Practice Nurses

Anne Witherow - Federation Lead Nurse

We have three GPN trainees who have just successfully completed the 9 month academic part of the GPN post graduate certificate in General Practice Nursing with the University Ulster and who are on target to complete the 12 month course in August 2023.

The Federation are also recruiting for a further 2 trainee posts to commence the post graduate certificate programme in September 2023 with Ulster University.

In partnership with GP Practices several education/training opportunities covering COPD & Asthma have been held with places open to non-federation general practice nurses employed by GP practices and which have been very well attended.

It is anticipated these clinical and professional update days will be held every 2-3 months and be open to ALL nurses within the Antrim and Ballymena GP Practices alongside the Federation nursing staff. The details will be sent to Practice Managers to extend invite to their Practice Nurses.


Federation Education

Dr John Goodrich GP Education Lead & Maria McCann Practice Manager.

This year our in-person meetings resumed post-pandemic and it was good to get back in a room with colleagues. The Hot Topics even in October was very well attended by our GPs.

We are mindful of the very difficult circumstances in practices currently with significant workload and workforce pressures, and we are working on a program which will meet needs and fit into your schedule.

During the pandemic much of our CPD was remote and these sessions can still be accessed on the website. We believe that meeting in person for CPD remains the preferred format as this presents so many opportunities for networking, well-being and informal support. Half of our member practices close on a Wednesday afternoon and this remains the time of choice but we can be flexible and provide alternative days or evening sessions of demand is there.

Best Practice Event

Our plans for a “Best Practice” event in May were postponed due to circumstances outside our control.

We hope to run this again on Wednesday 13th September

and details will be circulated soon. The form and content of our educational meetings will be discussed at that event and we will use this to plan for 2023/24.

As always, if you have any suggestions for CPD please contact FSU on


General Practice Pharmacists

Good news!

Many congratulations over the last few months to our GPPs on passing various qualifications. Lyndsey Alexander has completed her Advanced Practice Masters; Joanne Caldwell has completed PG Cert in Strategic Leadership in Primary Care and Ciara Mooney and Diarmaid Graham have completed their Foundation Programs. Well done to all!


Lots of team meetings and training have been taking place over 2023! On 18th May all four Northern Federations met in the Tullyglass House Hotel for an afternoon of CKD and heart failure training. This was a great day allowing for teams to integrate and network with other GPPs and Federations.


We have many exciting projects in the pipeline for the next few months for practices in the Antrim/Ballymena Federation.

The Benzodiazepine and ‘Z’ drug project has been ongoing for the last 6 months. The team are due to start work in Ballymena Health and Care Centre once they finish up in Kells.

We also have the introduction of the Heart Failure Project Medicines Optimisation Project due to start in in one Ballymena practice in June. This is with a view to hopefully roll out Federation wide when time allows.


Federation Elective Care Services

Across the region, General Practice Elective Care Services continue to grow and excel.

The GP Elective Care Service comprises of a group of primary care doctors (largely General Practitioners) who have extended their training in over 5 specialties across the 17 federation areas in Northern Ireland. They perform these enhanced clinics at chosen ‘host practices’ across each federation area and aim to: Reduce referrals to secondary care, with more intensified management of conditions within primary care. Decrease waiting times for hospital consultants. Improve patients’ experience with the Northern Ireland health care system. Provide education to patients and local GPs. Provide an alternative referral pathway for GPs. Promote self-management of many common problems.​

PCSS (Primary Care Surgical Service)

Host Practice: Maine Medical Ahoghill

(No mobile available)


Host Practice: Broughshane Medical Practice



Host Practice: Braid Family Practice



Host Practice: Randalstown Medical Practice



Host Practice: Ballyclare Practice *Regional Service


To check updated approx waiting times, service information, contact details and other information please check on our website at Elective Care (ECR) | Northern Federation Support Unit (

Eastern FSU Elective Care Team have recently collated data and feedback across Northern Ireland which show how valuable the service is to patients.

A note from the Regional Clinical Lead Dr Siobhan McEntee:

“It has been over 4 years since Elective Care was first commissioned and now over 51,000 patients have been seen through the service. I would like to thank all the amazing team who make this possible; the GPES doctors and Leads, the Nurses, HCAs and all the staff in the Practice Teams who contribute so much to keeping this service running smoothly. Delivering a high standard of patient care is always your first priority and I think this feedback reflects the patients appreciation of the fabulous work you do.”

Dr Siobhan McEntee


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!


Practice Managers also have access to Holiday Manager on Practice Index.

Staff can request leave online, meaning the days of bits of paper floating around your office are long gone. Then, with an instant check to see who else is off, simply click and you’re done – you’ve approved the annual leave! What’s not to love?

Holiday Manager handles new starter and leaver calculations with ease. It can make instant calculations for part-time workers, calculate (and automatically deduct) bank holidays, and enables holiday to be calculated in either hours or sessions depending on the staff member.

Simply add start or finish dates for each member of staff, any contractual terms and away you go! It really is that simple. Where you’re happy to do so, at the end of each year, you can carry over any unused annual leave with one click. The benefits don’t stop there; Holiday Manager reminds staff that they need to take annual leave and provides you with a list of staff who have high levels of unbooked leave. It also gives

you an overview of who is off in the next 30 days, along with any leave requests you have pending.

Holiday Manager also helps you to manage other types of absence, and can even calculate the Bradford Factor to support you in managing sickness absence.


RCGPNI have launched their GP and Practice of the Year Awards. General practice is facing huge challenges, but every day amazing care takes place.

Take a few minutes to nominate your GP or GP practice team. All the information you need is here:


PHA Patient Videos

Braid Family Practice in Ballymena who took part in a PHA patient information videos.

Many people on social media ask

Why GP reception staff ask them questions when they call the surgery? In this video, Shauna Martin explains why it’s important to give reception staff as much information as possible and how all GP practice staff are bound by confidentiality.


Why the GP sometimes sends a patient to the Emergency Department?

In this video, Dr Susan Sproule at the Braid Family Practice in Ballymena explains why GPs will sometimes refer a patient to the Emergency Department or another appropriate setting. Your GP wants to help you get treated and to direct you to the most appropriate service for your condition, at the right time, all of the time.


Have you wondered why sometimes another member of the GP surgery calls you back instead of your Doctor?

In this video, Maria McCann, Practice Manager at the Braid Family Practice in Ballymena explains why sometimes other clinicians will call patients back instead of the GP.


FSU Contract Holding – Organisational Structure

Discussions have taken place with FSU Chairs, RCGP and NIGPC in relation to working together to take a more proactive approach in applying for and taking on the contracts for GP Practices when contracts have been handed back to SPPG. Approval was given to establish an infrastructure to facilitate the holding of multiple contracts.

Within this document you will find details on:

  • Background

  • Criteria

  • Structure

  • FAQs

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.


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

Recently we have researched and circulated information in relation Blue Light Card for all practice staff and agreed a joint Accurx contract for EMIS practices which resulted in a £4K cost saving.

Having received an invitation to attend the next AB Practice Managers Forum on 20 June 23 I can confirm that Julie and I will be in attendance. If you have any ideas / wish to discuss anything further, we will be happy to do so.

Lastly, just to let each of you know that I will be going off on maternity leave around the middle of August and during this period I am off, my colleague Rachael will be your point of contact for any project related ideas / progress updates etc.

Yours Sincerely,


(Project Coordinator)

Tel: 028 9620 8333 | Mob: 07799249892

Northern Federation Support Unit | Northern Federation Support Unit (


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