Call for urgent help with another GP surgery at risk

[Press center3] time:2023-06-02 03:46:32 source:BBC News (British Broadcasting Corporation) author:Press center5 click:152order

A senior doctor has called for urgent action to save GP surgeries in Northern Ireland after another practice was put at risk of closure.

GPs running Cullybackey Medical Practice in County Antrim have become the latest to hand their contract back to Stormont's Department of Health.

It is the 15th time a practice has done so in the past year.

The Department of Health confirmed that the surgery's GPs had given notice and the contract would end on 30 November.

It said that patients registered with Cullybackey Medical Practice did not need to take any action and should continue to contact the surgery if they needed to.

The move would affect more than 7,000 patients, according to the British Medical Association (BMA), which represents doctors.

Whenever GPs operating a medical practice hand their contract back it means they no longer intend to run it.

That may be due to issues such as retirement, staffing and recruitment problems or financial pressures facing the practice.

The Department of Health will then attempt to find a new GP or group of GPs to take over the running of the surgery.

In the past month alone two other surgeries - Kells and Connor Medical Practice and Kilkeel Medical Practice - announced their intention to do return their contracts although new management was later found for the Kells and Connor surgery.

On Friday the Department of Health announced that it had found a new contractor to run the Racecourse Medical Centre in Shantallow in Londonderry.

The practice was at risk of closure after it handed its contract back to the department in March ahead of the retirement of one of the GPs.

It is one of the biggest in Derry, with about 4,800 patients, and will be taken over by Dr Ravinder Kumar on 1 June.

Dr Kumar has experience running two GP practices in Manchester in England.

Speaking on Friday after the Cullybackey Medical Practice contract had been handed back, Dr Alan Stout of the BMA said the crisis within general practice was worsening.

"This is far from a normal situation and is hugely significant for all," he said.

He called for urgent action "to save general practice before we are past a point of no return", with tens of thousands of patients in Northern Ireland already having been affected.

He said the speed at which contracts were being handed back was in danger of becoming "the norm".

New GPs were coming through but the number was not sufficient to fill the spaces left by "the amount of older GPs we are losing to retirement and burnout", said Dr Stout.

He added: "This practice will not be the last to fall and is the fourth practice in this locale to hand back its contract.

"General practice and wider primary care is the most basic function of any health service, accessed by many thousands every single day.

"If it fails then the whole NHS will fail."

The Department of Health said it acknowledged the "significant pressures on GP practices, stemming from the fact that demand for their services is outstripping capacity to provide it".


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