Relief for patients as new doctors recruited to run under-threat GP surgery
GP services in Dungannon are more secure today after the Health and Social Care Board confirmed that it has appointed a new contractor to take over the town's Northland Surgery.
The move has been welcomed by Fermanagh-South Tyrone MLA Arlene Foster.
Last October concerns were raised when three doctors working from the surgery said they were withdrawing from their contract at the end of this March.
Another local surgery run by Dr SRC Murty closed in January 2018 after his retirement, with patients redistributed across the town, leaving Northland with more than 9,000 people on its books.
Northland said it could not offer a safe service to so many. Two GPs had retired from the practice in early 2018, and despite its best efforts it had failed to recruit new doctors.
"For patients of Northland Surgery it has been an anxious time as they await news on the future of the GP practice in the area," Mrs Foster said.
"We have been pushing for a sensible and sustainable outcome which would suit the needs of the people of the area and ensure they have full, accessible healthcare."
Now the HSCB has advised all patients of Northland to continue to contact the practice as normal, with Dr Wray and Dr Johnston operating from the premises from April 1, 2019.
"As with any contract award, these processes often involve discussion, clarification and agreement of terms," the HSCB said.
"It was important for the HSCB to take time to ensure these are in the best interest of the patients and we would like to thank the patients for their patience during these negotiations.
"The HSCB will be writing to all patients over the next few days to provide further reassurance to them and inform them of their new GP arrangements.
"The HSCB can also confirm that all staff positions at Northlands Surgery have also been secured as well as the ongoing use of the current premises."
Councillor Clement Cuthbertson said it was vital to continue to fight to retain local GP services. "Ease of access to vital health services is so important in the treatment of many illnesses. GP services are often the first port of call and so we must fight to retain those services in our local communities," he said.
"We were pleased to hear that the board had confirmation of a new contract with a new provider and they were able to reaffirm their commitments that people will not suffer. Patients will be relieved with this good news that GP provision will continue in the area after March.
"We now look forward to the new provision being implemented. It's a real success in the fight to retain services in Northland."