Stormont officials recalled to discuss town GP crisis

The GP crisis at Bannview Medical Practice in Portadown is to be discussed at Stormont on Monday, when members of the health committee are recalled for a special meeting.

Friday, 16th December 2016, 4:45 pm
Updated Saturday, 17th December 2016, 9:41 am

The meeting, at the request of MLA Jo-Anne Dobson, will discuss the situation regarding GP coverage in rural communities, including the practice at Portadown Health Centre.

The Department of Health will brief the committee.

Interviews were being conducted on Wednesday for the post of GP contractor within Bannview practice.

However, it is understood the practice would need at least three doctors to cope with the practice’s 5,000 patients.

At present, it has none, due to resignations, sickness and maternity leave, with coverage being provided by locum GPs.

Dr Tom Black, chair of British Medical Association Northern Ireland’s General Practitioners Committee (NIGPC), said the current situation in Portadown “is unfortunately indicative of a wider crisis that’s engulfing general practice across Northern Ireland”.

He said, “NIGPC has been calling on the Minister for Health to ensure the survival of general practice throughout the country, including Portadown, by investing 10 per cent of the Northern Ireland healthcare budget on a safe, sustainable GP service for patients; training more GPs so practices at risk of closure can stay open and meet the needs of patients, and reducing bureaucracy and improve IT systems so more time can be spent providing care to patients.

“While there were some positive announcements by Minister O’Neill recently as part of her Health and Wellbeing plans, the Minister needs to act now to save general practice before it is too late. We have been holding crisis meetings across the country over the past two months with our members – including a packed meeting in Armagh - where they have overwhelming told us that they would be willing to begin the process of leaving the health service in order to prevent its complete collapse.”

He added, “What we have heard at these meetings are the very issues we have been flagging up in general practice for many months now and unfortunately it looks like it’s crunch time.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said, “ “We would like to reassure patients of Bannview Medical Practice that GP services will continue to be provided at this time.

“While a telephone triage system is still in place, routine appointments are now being offered via locum GPs in the practice, with additional support provided by advanced nurse practitioners and independent pharmacy prescribers retained by the GP practice.

“We would ask patients to continue to support the practice at this time.”