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Concern thousands of patients could be left without a GP as Tyrone surgery set to close

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Stock image (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Stock image (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Sinn Fein MLA Colm Gildernew

Sinn Fein MLA Colm Gildernew

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Stock image (Anthony Devlin/PA)

Thousands of people could be left without a GP as Northern Ireland’s primary care system slips deeper into crisis.

Dromore and Trillick Surgery, which is believed to have almost 6,000 patients on its books, is due to shut at the end of this month — prompting fears it could lead to the collapse of neighbouring practices.

And despite the fact the Co Tyrone surgery is due to close in little over a fortnight, it is understood GPs in the area still have no idea whether they will be allocated patients from Dromore and Trillick Surgery.

It comes as hopes that funding for a scheme aimed at stabilising general practice in Northern Ireland lies in tatters amid the ongoing row over the Northern Ireland Protocol.

The multi-disciplinary team (MDT) programme has been hailed as an important step in improving access to primary care services and outcomes for patients, as well as reducing GP workload.

Almost £50m has been allocated to GP federations across Northern Ireland since 2018 to run the MDT model, which sees health professionals including physiotherapists, social workers and pharmacists working in conjunction with family doctors.

South West GP federation, which takes in Fermanagh and Omagh, was due to receive funding in the next swathe of awards but this has been delayed pending clarity on the Department of Health’s budget.

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There are significant concerns about the ability of already overstretched GP surgeries to deliver the crucial NHS service to even more patients, particularly in the absence of MDT funding.

It is not known which GP surgeries will be expected to subsume the thousands of patients from Dromore and Trillick Surgery, but it thought practices in the likes of Irvinestown, Fintona, Brookeborough and Tempo, Drumquin, and Castlederg may be affected.

The situation is likely to increase pressure on GPs, who are already concerned at the possibility patients may come to harm due to the intolerable workload.

Morale is expected to drop even further, prompting some of the large proportion of family doctors in the area who are approaching retirement age, to leave their jobs and potentially leading to further closures.

It will also mean patients have to travel further to see their GP.

One GP has been running Dromore and Trillick Surgery since the beginning of July in 2020. His contract is due to come to an end on June 30 but no replacement GP has been found despite an extensive recruitment campaign.

GPs have been warning for over a decade of an emerging workforce crisis, which has led to increasing challenges in accessing GP surgeries in recent years.

The GP workload has been exacerbated further as they struggle to manage the hundreds of thousands of people waiting for hospital appointments.

Sinn Fein MLA Colm Gildernew said: “The situation in Dromore and indeed the surrounding areas is deeply concerning and we have been raising this issue with the health minister and his department for some time. We need an executive up and running so that we can fund our health service and hire more doctors and nurses.

“We need the continued roll out of MDTs into GP practices to support local health leaders.

“We urgently need a strategic workforce plan that will target our health service staff needs into the future.

“Lurching from crisis to crisis cannot be a default anymore. We need to deliver better healthcare outcomes for all of our people.”

The Department of Health has been contacted for comment.


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