“A catalogue of failure”– Paisley responds as local community deprived of GP practice
North Antrim DUP MP Ian Paisley has responded to the announcement by the Department of Health this afternoon of the impending closure of Kells & Connor Medical Practice, saying there has been "a catalogue of failure".
Paisley said he was "bitterly disappointed that the Health and Social Care Trust has decided to proceed with the closure of Kells GP practice". He added: "This will, once it occurs, spell the end of a rural GP practice".
Mr Paisley continued:
"I along with my colleague Cllr W. McCaughey spoke with the health trust and met them to put forward alternative funding and GP supply proposals.
"The Departments response has been that they are following a legal process and the closure in their view is now inevitable.
"I reached out the NI secretary of State and urged him to give more time for due diligence to be carried out by prospective GPs but he failed to respond. I fear that over 4000 patients will now be dispersed to other practices in Ballymena and elsewhere only putting additional strain on those surgeries.
"There has been a catalogue of failure here stemming back to a poor strategic vision for GPs and the changing environment they work in. We are now reaping the wind of a health service that was reduced to being a one trick pony during the covid crisis when the eye was taken off the ball of GP services, community care, cancer care and general waiting lists all at crisis point. Yes, we coped with covid but at what cost to the rest of the service!
"The NHS is in disarray – not just in NI but across the UK and poor leadership at the top must bear some of that responsibility".
DUP Cllr William McCaughey has stated that this is an appalling announcement for the provision of GP services in the villages of Kells and Connor.
Cllr McCaughey is a former community pharmacy manager and lives in the villages alongside former Health Minister Robin Swann. The local councillor believes that opportunities to reform this primary care service over the past number of years have been missed.
Cllr William McCaughey said:
“The GP dilemma is not an issue that has arisen overnight, but we see here the terrible consequences of neglecting this evident problem. This scenario has been brewing below the surface for several years and we now see a financially viable, 4000-plus patient health centre close, despite previous warnings as evidenced in Glenarm and Carnlough. It is clear despite our best efforts, the people of Kells and Connor will be deprived of an essential general practice which has been utilised by generations of local residents.”
Cllr William McCaughey continued: “I am in favour of transforming the Health Service to make it more efficient and effective for patient outcomes. No one will convince me that this closure delivers either. The closure comes from not addressing problems foreseen and shows a lack of planning and management within the Health Service as a whole.
"Ian Paisley MP and I met with Dr M. O’Brien, Head of Strategic Planning and Performance Group (SPPG) and her team to request a deferral of this closure announcement. That was not given to us as a viable option.”
“In light of this announcement the strategic planning group now need to tell us, the general public, what the plan is for GP Services. If the Health Authorities are willing to permit a GP surgery such a this to close then, little hope can be sought for the prevention of further closures of other GP surgeries around the province in the future. As a local Councillor and the former community pharmacy manager, I have been told that within two weeks all patients will be notified of the finality of this closure, with patients being relocated to already overstretched Ballymena and Antrim GP services.
"Serious questions remain for Health Service Managers who have let this absolute crisis develop within our general practice network. The strategic planners of the Health Service must now provide a viable long-term strategy to prevent such a disaster from occurring again in any other village or town setting.”
Cllr. McCaughey concluded: “The staff at this GP surgery some of whom have served their community for decades, are devastated by this decision. Many vulnerable residents of Kells and Connor will now struggle with transport arrangements to GP services which were once on their doorstep.
"Having spoken to the local community pharmacy owner she has already given me assurance that they will take every measure possible to ensure residents that even though their GP Practice may be many miles away they will still be able to avail of community pharmacy services and prescription availability right on their doorstep.”