The chairman of the Royal College of GPs has warned the health minister that GP surgeries may not exist in Northern Ireland in 10 years’ time, unless she takes urgent action.
Dr John O’Kelly met with Michelle O’Neill at Stormont on Wednesday.
He said: “I’m not pessimistic but I’m hopeful we will get action, but if we don’t then general practice will not exist in the next decade.”
The health minister said: “I think we can all recognise that GPs are under significant pressure.
“I have committed to work with them and I think we can continue to build on some of the good initiatives we’ve had over the past number of years.
"We have to focus on the big picture.”
The British Medical Association is also deeply concerned the service is in crisis, saying it needs a cash injection of at least 10% of the health budget to survive.
It is urging the public to sign a petition calling for more funding, more training for GPs and reducing bureaucracy so “more time can be spent providing care to patients”.
Dr Tom Black from the BMA said: “This is a matter of urgency to not only rescue general practice, but to ensure that patients in Northern Ireland have a responsive, safe and sustainable general practice service that they know will be there when they need it.”