Number of GP practices decreases as patient number rises

GP practices are facing a average 15% rise in patients numbers.

That's according to the Department for Health which also shows there has been a 16% fall in practice numbers in the Western Trust area, since 2014.

On Tuesday, the department confirmed that the Western Trust has agreed to take on the contract for a practice in Dromore and Trillick, Co Tyrone.

Under this new temporary arrangement, the Trust says it will work with the department to secure ongoing locum GP cover for the practice.

The Trust will also oversee administrative support and the provision of pharmacy and social work services.

This new arrangement will take effect from 1 July 2022 until March 2023.

On the wider situation, the British Medical Association (BMA) says it all paints a worrying picture for the future of GP practices in Northern Ireland.

Dr Alan Stout runs one of Northern Ireland's now 319 GP's practices, a number which is falling.

In 2014, there were 340.

"It's very, very worrying," he told UTV. "It's actually what we've been warning about for quite some time.

"We have seen it on the ground and whenever we see closing GP practices that has two big impacts.

"One is on the local population that's served by that practice, who will struggle to get GP access close to them.

"But the other big impact is on the surrounding practices as well."

Closures are not surprising to many people who live in the area.

Councillor Victor Warrington said, "In the likes of Rosslea, Maguiresbridge (both had single-doctor practices)... when the doctor retired there was nobody to basically come in and take it over."

Practices are now on average treating 15% more patients.

But over the last eight years, the actual number of GPs - excluding locums - has increased by 20% .

Dr Stout said this is a positive step, but locums are still very necessary.

There are now very real concerns about emerging geographical black holes in services.

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