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‘One in 14 practices’ set to close in Northern Ireland

The GPC in Northern Ireland is setting up a ‘rescue’ service for struggling practices, after estimating that as many as one in 14 practices could close next year.

A working group is being set up in partnership with the Health and Social Care Board to support practices struggling to find locum doctors to cover sickness, holidays and maternity leave.

It comes as Pulse has been calling for support for practices in danger of closing as part of its Stop Practice Closures campaign.

GPC Northern Ireland chair Tom Black estimates that about six practices could shut this year and the number may rise to 20 next year – about one in every 14 practices.

The new service will also give advice to practices on handling the increasing number of services that are moving from secondary to primary care under the Transforming Your Care plan.

The GPC will meet with Health and Social Care Board officials before the end of the summer to iron out the details.

Dr Black said: ‘We’ve already seen a number of practice collapses in Northern Ireland and estimate that we may experience approximately six practice collapses this year, increasing to about 20 next year.

‘This represents about 7.5% of all practices in the next 18 months. The committee has therefore set up a rescue package team to look at how we can identify struggling practices early and how these practices can be supported.’

A Health and Social Care Board spokesperson said: ‘The board looks forward to an initial meeting with the team in the coming weeks.’

Pulse reported this week that NHS Lothian in Scotland is setting up a £1m fund for struggling practices.