Belfast GP surgery to close as healthcare crisis deepens in Northern Ireland
A Belfast GP surgery is set to shut its doors next month, joining a string of others across Northern Ireland facing turmoil as the healthcare crisis deepens.
The Tullycarnet branch of Bridges Family Practice will close at the end of April, with patients in the deprived area expected to travel through the city to a sister surgery for appointments.
Doctors at the practice applied to close the branch as far back as December 2015 amid concerns the mobile surgery, which opens two mornings a week, was not up to standard.
No nursing services or treatment room were available at the Tullycarnet branch, so patients already had to travel for routine procedures like blood tests, dressings and injections.
Midwifery appointments as well as smear tests and minor surgery had to be carried out at the practice's main surgery more than three miles away.
Green councillor Dr Georgina Milne said: "If investment had been directed towards the Tullycarnet facility, as opposed to letting it run down and degrade, perhaps we would instead be celebrating the opening of a new, state-of-the art surgery in Tullycarnet that would enable patients to access healthcare in their community. It's a disgrace that people now have to make the difficult, costly and time consuming journey from Tullycarnet to inner east Belfast just to access healthcare from their family doctor."
A spokesperson for the Health and Social Care Board said the practice was liaising with local pharmacies regarding prescription collection and continuing to provide house visits to help minimise the impact on patients, adding that the option was open to register with two alternative surgeries.
The HSCB said: "We understand that the change or closure of services including GP services can be difficult for residents.
"However, we want to reassure both residents and local representatives that within the immediate area of Tullycarnet and the greater Belfast area, there continues to be good access to GP services for all residents."
Doctors at the surgery said in a statement: "Bridges Family Practice, after careful consideration, made the difficult decision to close the branch surgery.
"We work alongside our nursing and pharmacy colleagues on site at the main surgery to provide ongoing care."
Thousands of patients across Northern Ireland are currently being relocated to surgeries outside their areas or depending on temporary contractors for care.