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First ever APMS contract awarded in Northern Ireland

Northern Irish authorities are awarding the very first APMS contract in the country in a last-ditch bid to ensure continuing GP provision in the town of Portadown

The Southern Health and Social Care Trust was given the contract having been running the 5,200 Bannview Medical Centre since the previous partners had been forced to hand back the contract in November 2016.

Local GP leaders said that the health board and the trust had to take such a radical measure as they were unable to find a provider through a standard GMS contract.

GP leaders told Pulse in January that unless a solution was found, the remaining practices in the town – who were also ‘teetering on the brink’ and could not take on additional patients – were at risk of collapse.

The previous partners of Bannview Medical Centre handed back the contract after the practice had lost four GPs in a short period of time.

A GP contractor had initially been found to take over the practice but pulled out at the last minute, leaving the health board having to ask the trust to run it on a temporary basis. 

Dr Arnie McDowell, chair of Southern LMC, said the longer-term solution to the problems in Portadown had been to offer the Southern Health Care Trust – who run several hospitals in the region and some community services – the very first APMS contract in Northern Ireland.

‘This is a case of provision having to be found from the health board, as they have not been able to find a provider through a standard GMS contract.’

He added: ‘It is certainly viewed as less desirable for a trust to be running a practice rather than a standard GMS contract.

‘But all we can do is monitor this in terms of patients and the effect on GPs, as well as practices being treated equitably, as it is a new situation for Northern Ireland.’

A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board said: ‘Following discussions with the Health and Social Care Board (HSCB), the Southern Health and Social Care Trust agreed to take on the contractual responsibility for the provision of General Medical Services to the patients registered with Bannview Medical Practice, Portadown Health Centre, Co Armagh.

‘These arrangements were put in place by the HSCB when measures to recruit a GP Contractor were unsuccessful.’

The contract will in the first instance run until 31 March 2018, the health board confirmed.