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  • Writer's pictureMichelle Weir (Local Democracy Reporter)

Challenges continue for GP services as another contract is handed back to Department of Health

Doctors stethoscope

The GP partners of Larne Medical Practice have confirmed they have handed back their contract to deliver GP services to the Department of Health from April 30 2024.

In a statement on their practice website, they said:

“This is a decision that has been taken with careful consideration and much regret. We, the partners and our staff, have been planning and working towards the practice merger since last year.

“Given that one of the objectives of the merger was to stabilise medical services in Larne Health Centre, we are devastated that due to a lack of adequate medical cover, we cannot provide a safe sustainable service.

“We will continue to seek extra medical cover however, locum/employed GPs only perform a fraction of the work undertaken by a GP partner. This leaves the remaining GP partners with a further increase in workload that is unsustainable and ultimately unsafe for patients.

“The Department of Health will now begin the process of advertising for and recruiting a new GP contractor. Whilst the practice cannot be directly involved in this process, we will endeavour to work with any new contract holder to ensure medical services continue for our staff and patients.

“We want to reassure our patients that we will continue to deliver GP services as normal until the contract is handed back. Patients do not need to do anything and should continue to contact the practice as normal. The Department of Health will shortly write out to all patients.”

In a letter, patients have been advised the SPPG is currently seeking a replacement doctor/practice to care for the patients of Larne Medical Practice and is planning to have this in place by 30 April 2024.

The Strategic Planning and Performance Group (SPPG) plans and oversees the delivery of health and social care services for the population of Northern Ireland.

Elected representatives has expressed concern at the development. In a joint statement East Antrim DUP MP Sammy Wilson and Gordon Lyons MLA said:

“This is the latest blow to GP provision in Northern Ireland and will undoubtedly cause worry and anxiety amongst patients in Larne Medical Practice.

“We have been reassured that GP services will continue at the centre as usual until the current contract ends on 30 April 2024. It is essential that the Trust act with urgency to bring reassurance to patients and safeguard this vital service for the people of Larne.”

Their party colleague, Coast Road Councillor Andrew Clarke said:

“I would urge the Health Trust to pursue every course of action, and to consider whether they can directly run it.

“Larne has seen a large amount of new housing: we really need more, not less healthcare.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said:

“The Department of Health (DoH) can confirm that the GPs at Larne Medical Practice have given notice of their intention to withdraw from their contract to deliver General Medical Services. Their contract will end on 30th April 2024.

“The Department will now begin a process to secure alternative arrangements for these services.

“A number of different options are available to ensure patients are not left without a GP service. The preferred option is to secure a GP contractor – or grouping of GPs – to take over the practice through a formal recruitment process. In some circumstances, Health and Social Care Trusts can take over a GP contract as an interim solution.

“We want to reassure patients that the existing Larne Medical Practice will continue to retain the contract to deliver GP services until 30th April 2024.

“Patients at the practice do not need to take any action. They should continue to contact the practice as normal. We have issued letters to all patients registered with the practice and will continue to keep them informed throughout the process.”

In September, Mid and East Antrim Borough Council received a planning application for extensions at Moyle Medical Centre, Old Glenarm Road, Larne, which accommodates Corran, Victoria and Inver Surgeries. The application was submitted by the GP partners.


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