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Two Northern Irish GP practices hand back contracts

Two Northern Irish GP practices hand back contracts

Two Northern Irish GP practices have handed back their contracts, after workload and workforce pressures became unsustainable.

The Ballymena Family Practice and Flax Medical Centre in Ardoyne, Co Antrim, were among a host of GP practices that have been receiving targeted support by the Northern Irish Department of Health.

BMA NI GP committee chair Dr Alan Stout told Pulse that the main reasons the two practices are having to close are ‘workload pressures and staff shortages, especially GPs’.

He added that there is a short space of time for finding solutions and alternative contractors.

Dr Stout told Pulse: ‘They may end up either with some dissemination of patients to neighbouring practices, but none can take any more patients, or contracts held under the Trust.’

The practices have a combined list size of more than 6,000 patients, with 3,275 patients registered at the Ballymena Family Practice and 3,014 registered at the Flax Medical Centre.

The closures, which come despite a financial support package announced for GPs in Northern Ireland at the end of last month, could soon be followed by those of other practices, Dr Stout warned.

‘The crisis team is currently involved with 21 practices’, he said, ‘having been involved with over 70, so problems and difficulties are widespread and multiple.’

In the summer, BMA NI chair Dr Tom Black warned that 22 GP practices in Northern Ireland were at risk of closure due to increased demand and loss of doctors.

And last month, Pulse reported that the lack of a government and budget for Northern Ireland could lead to an exodus of GPs and other doctors who are not getting their promised pay uplift.

Dr Stout said: ‘We still have no executive and no way to agree the funding for the uplift across the entire HSC.’

‘The [health] minister has agreed the DDRB uplift here but has no money to apply it. Every practice is also facing very significant additional costs with the energy crisis.’