Crisis hit GPs in a Northern Ireland town have been granted a reprieve after a provider was found to take over a 9,000-patient practice, which had handed its contract back.
Three remaining doctors at the Northland Surgery in Dungannon gave six months notice in October after deciding they could no longer continue to provide a safe service.
The practice had faced the retirement of two partners in a short space of time and were unable to recruit new staff.
GP leaders feared the move would be the ‘tipping point’ for general practice in Dungannon which was under enormous pressure after a practice had closed and patients were spread between the remaining four.
The Health and Social Care Board said they had agreed the GMS contract would be taken over by doctors who run a practice in a nearby town from the 1 April.
It had taken time to complete the negotiations, the Board said, but added that all staff positions had been secured at the practice, which would continue to operate from the current premises.
The board’s statement said: ‘The HSCB would like to advise all patients of Northland Surgery who need GP care to continue to contact the practice as normal.’
The Board added it would be ‘writing to all patients over the next few days to provide further reassurance to them and inform them of their new GP arrangements’.
In a letter to patients explaining their decision to hand the contract back, the Northlands Surgery said they had felt there was ‘no alternative’.
They wrote: ‘Despite all our best efforts we have been unable to recruit new GPs and the remaining three doctors have come to the conclusion that, with a growing list size, as patients continue to be allocated, and an increasing workload, they are no longer able to offer a safe and satisfactory service to patients.’
Local BMA leaders had warned that the potential closure of a 9,000 patient practice would have had devastating effects on other practices in Dungannon telling Pulse ‘there is no give anymore’.
Northern Ireland BMA GP committee chair Dr Alan Stout welcomed the news that a new contractor had been found and would take over shortly.
He said: ‘It is good and it maintains GMS to the area and the significant group of patients. We still anticipate it being challenging and they will require ongoing support from HSCB and from the LMC to ensure it works.’
Pulse previously reported that Dungannon was one of three Northern Ireland towns at risk of losing at least half of their GP practices.