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GPs go forth

Third of practices in town could close within 18 months

Nearly a third of GPs in Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, plan to leave general practice within the next 18 months, a situation that the GPC warns has 'caught us unawares'. 

Western LMC says that around 12 of the 32 GPs currently working in Fermanagh are planning to quit, which may lead to the number of practices falling from 18 to 12. 

Despite the region’s beauty there have been problems recruiting doctors to take over single handed rural practices.

Dr Martin McCloskey, the secretary of the Western LMC, said: 'There are 18 practices in Fermanagh and I think they will be lucky if there are 12 left in the next 12 to 18 months.’

He said smaller practices are less attractive to younger GPs. ‘I think it’s a more precarious life, there’s more responsibility, there’s less peer support and more difficult to get time off for holidays.’

Some single-handed practices are amalgamating with bigger practices, said Dr McCloskey. 'They are able to keep the buildings going, they have not centralised services.’

Northern Ireland GPC chair Tom Black said: 'It has caught us unawares.

'Twenty five per cent of GPs are over 55 years old. They are all retiring at the same time.’

The Health and Social Care Board is talking to GPs about a sustainable solution.

A spokeswoman said: 'It is hoped that the discussions will lead to a model of care which provides both high quality clinical care and an attractive proposition for young newly qualified GPs to come and work in the rural Fermanagh area.’

Pulse campaigning for support for vulnerable practices

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Copy of Stop Practice Closures-logo-online-330

Pulse has been pressing for immediate support for vulnerable practices across the UK since 2014 through its Stop Practice Closures campaign.

In Northern Ireland, a BMA report earlier this year found that around 75% of Northern Irish practices said they ‘are struggling’ and a further 10% reveal they are ‘unable to cope’.

Wales is suffering an acute crisis in GP recruitment, with health boards in the country now stepping in to help practices at risk of closure. GP Survival found that 20 practices handed their contract back in the last year, including five that closed.

In the previous five years, 33 practices had handed their contract back, including 17 closures.

Health boards in Walesand Scotland are increasingly having to take over the running of practices as many partners are choosing to hand their contracts over to trusts and an increasing number of GPs choose to become salaried employees.

In England, NHS England announced a new tranche of £16 million of funding to support struggling practices.

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt first announced the fund in his ‘new deal’ last year, and NHS England said in December that practices with poor CQC ratings or higher-than-average referrals and prescribing would be prioritised.

Read more about the campaign here


Readers' comments (11)

  • what's new? Its more or less same everywhere, why should GP take blame for someone else's fault. there are better opportunities elsewhere. Those who can leave are leaving, Its not up to us to save this sinking ship. Patients will get service they deserve if they don't protest

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  • 'It has caught us unawares'! I am sorry Tom, we have been shouting about this for years to anybody who would listen, politicians, NI health board, gmsc, bam, everybody knows what will hit us in Fermanagh over this winter and nothing! NOTHING! Has been done apart from the promise of pharmacists in practice and 20 extra GP trainees who won't get sent near the west,
    We are in despair here and we are facing meltdown locally, it is too late for sticking plasters we need root and branch redevelopment of primary care and a lot more investment into general practice to even dream of survival, a sad crisis that was at one time avoidable, shame on all that could help us but chose to ignore rural NI primary care here.

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  • Coming soon to a town/ccg near you all you cardigans.We told you you would not listen is a sad but true state of affairs throughout the UK.

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  • Caught unawares??? What planet has he been on for the last few years???? Who pays this man and why????

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  • Needs large transfusion of whole money stat. Oh shit it's flat lining . Why did we ignore that falling haemoglobin for years ?

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  • Soon this will not be a headline. Soon, this will be one in a list.

    I repeat 'You don't understand and you do not have a plan for the post-nhs world.'

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  • This has caught us unawares.........Practices across England are gleefully ignoring the inevitable; Partners that don't comprehend business, practice managers ignored or disenfranchised. WAKE UP!

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  • Governments have been warned about this for the past 15 years or longer. They promised more GPs, they promised more midwives, they promised more CPNs and more district nurses. All these promises over the years and nothing is done. Collapse. Such a shame. In the late 1980's when I entered GP. we had poor remuneration compared to Consultants, be we had great teams, of midwives, D.N.s and CPNs and Psychiatric services. Where are these services now ?

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  • I remember GPCNI quoting that small rural pratices would be the "canaries in the mine". Also "domino effect" destabilising surrounding practices. That was over a year ago.
    The demograhic of those GPs in these areas was obvious to all. A blind man on a galloping horse could see what was coming.
    "Taken unawares", I don't think so!

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  • A cut in % GP funding from 11 in 2004 to 5.5 in 2015 as a share of the NHS is clear cut indication from the DOH in NI that they do not care about GPs. A few weeks ago an extra 62 million was released for the NHS in NI. Of that,180000 was for GPs who see 90% of all consults in the NHS.
    No body cares for GPs or GP land, so let it go and do not bemoan its fate.
    An Eire system is coming.

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