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GPs go forth

13 GP practices to close in single county

Exclusive Plans are underway to close 13 of the 18 GP practices in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, leaving patients having to travel '30 to 40 miles' to see their GP, the GPC has warned.

The proposals are under development with two practices already having closed recently, and four more closing in the next few months.

This is worse than had been previously feared, when it was reported that a third of the practices in the county would close, due to the retirement of potentially a third of the 66 GPs in the rural region.

With no GPs available to fill the slots, it has been predicted that three-quarters of Fermanagh’s practices will close within five years.

It comes as Pulse has reported that the Northern Ireland GPC will ask practices to quit the NHS in the New Year as the situation in Northern Ireland has reached a critical point in recent months with the threat of whole towns losing their GPs and out of hours services failing to provide proper cover.

Dr Tom Black, chair of the Northern Ireland GPC, said the situation in Fermanagh is even worse than other counties in Northern Ireland.

He said: 'We are trying to consolidate 18 practices into five so there will be five practices across the whole county.

‘Patients will be travelling 30 to 40 miles to see their GP. There will be an effort to maintain some of the practices as branch surgeries but it is very difficult as there are no GPs.’

Dr Black said the move to just five practices would be a gradual process.

‘We are already down from 18 to 16 and three or four more will close in the next few months,’ he said. ‘The practices want us to find them more GPs and more district nurses but they are in very short supply.’

He added that despite dire shortages across the country, there was an argument that Fermanagh was in greatest need and more needed to be done to attract GPs to the region.

‘We’re hoping over the next few months to bring in practice pharmacists, but getting more GPs and nurses will take much longer.’

Fermanagh has faced particular problems with recruiting new GPs to take over single-handed rural practices.

The GPC had previously said the staffing crisis in the region had ‘caught them unawares’ as many of the GPs were older and retiring at the same time.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Health and Social Care Board said: 'The Health and Social Care Board is continuing to work with GP practices in the Fermanagh area and to encourage them to form larger partnerships so that practices are in a stronger position to attract more GPs into the area and continue to provide general medical services to residents in the long term.

'Discussions are currently ongoing with two groups of GP practices which will ensure services continue to be provided to patients in their own surgeries.

'The Board believes that the way forward for a sustainable model for provision of GP services in the area is through the formation of such networks, which would provide both high quality clinical care and an attractive proposition for young newly qualified GPs to come and work in the rural Fermanagh area.'

Pulse has been calling for emergency support to be made available to preserve practices on the brink through its Stop Practice Closures campaign.

Picture credit: Fermanagh Lakelands

Readers' comments (23)

  • Mr Mephisto

    @Anonymous 1:04pm

    Where do I apply?

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  • If Tom Black is reading this, I suggest seriously picking up the phone to the Canadian Authorities to see what package they would offer for transferring the skills of Northern Ireland GPs en masse, as there are several areas of Canada where this would make a significant impact as well as allowing Northern Ireland Gps a strong cohort for support across the pond. The Canadians have 4 million citizens without GPs. I would then present the results of this enquiry to the local GPs for comparison and consideration. Flights are cheaper out of Dublin.

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  • Dr Mephisto..... its kinda like Fermanagh, but more salty :-)

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  • how can the aging of the gps have taken the gpc unawares?-do folk in NI not all age at the same rate as everyone else?

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  • i'm getting confused now - is this a good thing or bad thing?

    on the one hand we are told by the doh that practices come and go, moving to working at scale, more money than ever is going to be spent and the CQC basically implies small is bad BUT on the other hand we are told local services, named GP, continuity is good.

    I've given up now and am pinning hopes on NI GPs doing the right thing and leaving their contracts as this will send the right signal to politicians, the media, the public, and the medical leadership to start taking their responsibilities seriously.

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  • As one of the remaining Fermanagh GPs actually still in post (yes there are a few of us left here), I cannot understand how things have been let to get so very bad, even me, born and bred and working in the county for 25 years as a GP have looked at the possibility of escape to a new life down under! says it all really, I cant see it getting much better any time soon and as Rome burns, Nero happily fiddles away to the same old tune in Stormont, endlessly bailing out secondary care from the deepening financial hole that they are digging themselves into............

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  • Never too late Mark!!!! Go Go Go

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  • I agree mark..go
    this government does not deserve you.

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  • Go soon before Auz closes the doors to gps. At least you will have a head start on the rest of the UK.

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  • Mr Mephisto

    @ Mark Cathcart Dec 2016 5:19pm

    Hi Mark. Shocked and horrified to hear of what has been allowed to happen in Fermanagh. It has been an absolute disgrace. I’m surprised there has not been any public anger on the issue. The politicians don’t give a sh*te what happens in rural Fermanagh, West Tyrone, or South Armagh which have been literally left to die. If it doesn’t happen within shouting distance of the Reichstag (Stormont) they don’t care. They did get very interested about the closure of one single handed practice in Bangor. However Bangor is much more important that the whole of County Fermanagh, Armagh, Tyrone etc… The BBC have been completely silent on the issue. This speaks volumes about the quality of their journalism which is low level “TV personality” sh*te and completely Belfast focused. Unless the issue directly affectes the “Belfast Metropolitan Elite” (I use this phrase tongue in cheek) then the issue does not exist. It will not get any news coverage from the BBC unless Marie Louise Connelly, Mark Carruthers or Frank Mitchell can’t get a GP appointment. The crisis will hit Belfast soon enough. By that time it will be too late for all “non-Belfast” GP land.

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