Northern Ireland GP closed practice after 25 years amid funding pressures

A GP who ran his own family practice for 25 years said he will never work in Northern Ireland again because of the escalating funding and workforce pressures facing general practice.

Dr Colin Fitzpatrick is now working as a locum in a small town in New Zealand.

“I doubt I will be working full time as a locum in Northern Ireland again. It is a lot easier working here,” he told UTV.

Dr Fitzpatrick and his wife ran a GP practice in Comber.

They handed back their contract in 2019 because of rising costs, increasing workloads and the inability to secure locum GPs to cover staffing gaps.

Since Dr Fitzpatrick closed his practice pressures on GP services here have intensified. 

Chair of the Royal College of GPs in Northern Ireland, Dr Ursula Mason, warned that services are under pressure in a way never experienced before. 

“There’s no point in dressing up the difficulties and saying we are managing. We are not,” she said. 

Dr Mason added that the absence of a fully functioning Assembly and Executive in Northern Ireland has tangible.

Several practices across Northern Ireland have had to had back their contract due to pressures and many more are at risk of closure. 

Dr Alan Stout of the BMA said the latest practice at risk of imminent closure is in Ballymena. 

“Within weeks a practice will close leaving no GP for over three thousand patients,” he said.

Dr Stout added: “The Department of Health are required to provide care for these patients but it is no doubt a worrying time for patients as they will want to see continuity of care.

“In addition GPs cannot endlessly stretch the time and resources they have to deal with these crises, it is simply not safe for patients, GPs or practice staff."

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