Health trust to temporarily take over Priory and Springhill GP surgeries in Co Down

The surgeries provide GP services for around 14,000 patients across the two locations. Credit: Google Maps

The South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust has agreed to take on the contract of a surgery with two sites in Co Down, after efforts to secure new doctors failed.

The trust is to work with the Department of Health (DoH) to secure locum GP cover for Priory and Springhill surgeries in Holywood and in Bangor.

The new temporary arrangement will take effect from next month.

The surgeries, which provide GP services for around 14,000 patients across the two locations, had previously faced closure following the resignation of the current GP partners.

A spokesperson from the Department of Health confirmed that patients do not need to take any action following the announcement.

They said: "Patients of the practice can be assured that its services will continue under the new arrangement.

"They will receive letters on the situation over the coming days.

"Patients needing GP services should continue to contact the practice as normal." The Chief Executive of the South Eastern Health and Social Care Trust said she understood that it was "a very worrying time for patients belonging to the Priory and Springhill GP practices." Roisin Coulter continued: “The Trust will continue to work very closely with our GP and Department of Health colleagues to minimise disruption and ensure continuity of essential GP services for patients.”

Commenting on the announcement, Dr Alan Stout of the British Medical Association said: “This is yet another example of the perilous state that general practice in Northern Ireland is in.

"This practice was in trouble many months ago. An enthusiastic new contractor did express an interest in taking on the practice but realised it would be impossible to get enough GPs to work there with them to meet the workload.

"The current funding structures where the amount GPs get per patient has not increased sufficiently also contributed to their decision to decline taking the practice over."

He continued: “We need to urgently resolve our workforce crisis and ensure that General Practice has a sustainable future; we need to address the indemnity issue, stabilise the workload and move away from the narrative that GPs are working ‘part time’ or are closed to patients when GPs across Northern Ireland are doing the very best they can to meet demand. “The Trust taking on a contract like this is an emergency measure and cannot be seen as the future of general practice. We will work closely with them to try to ensure an alternative solution.”

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