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Concerns in community as two GP practices terminate contracts in Ballymena


There are fears that two GP practices in Ballymena could face possible closure after both have terminated their contracts to continue providing services to the local community.


Representing 7,137 patients, the Ballymena Family Practice and Dr Dick's practice, both based at the Ballymena Health & Care Centre, Cushendall Road, and are set to conclude on 31 December 2022 and 31 May 2023.



A Department of Health spokesperson told Love Ballymena:


"The current contractor at Ballymena Family Practice handed back their contract on 30th September 2022 and will resign the post on 31st December 2022.


"The Department’s Strategic Planning and Performance Group (SPPG) continues to consider all options to reach an agreeable outcome for the practice and registered patients. There are currently 3297 patients registered with Ballymena Family Practice (as at Oct 2022).


"A second practice in Ballymena has notified SPPG of its intention to hand back its contract and this is scheduled to take place on 31st May 2023. There are currently 3840 patients registered with this practice."



The Strategic Performance Planning Group oversees the management of GP surgeries across Northern Ireland, amd now musy find a new contractor for both practices before the contracts expire.


If the SPPG is unsuccessful, the trust will have to try to find locum GPs willing to work in the practices — but it will come with higher costs to the public with locums paid significantly more.


However if this is not achieved, over 7,000 patients will have to be absorbed into other local GP practices in the Ballymena area, bringing more pressure and demand to a system that is already at breaking point.



This afternoon, TUV Party Leader Jim Allister MLA wrote to the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health. Mr Allister said:


"Arising from the fact that two practices in Ballymena Health Centre have given notice of termination of their contracts, I write to enquire as to what the department’s contingency plans are.

 

"As I understand it, the Ballymena Family Practice is due to conclude at the end of December and Dr Dick’s practice next May. Thus in the new year 3300 patients in Ballymena will be without a doctor! What is the department’s plan to deal with this situation? 

 


"It is suggested to me Dr Loughrey is not retiring but moving to provide emergency cover at a failing practice in Belfast. If this is correct, where is the logic in such ‘musical chairs’? 

 

"Has the department met with the remaining collective of GPs in Ballymena to sort out how this situation can be resolved. This would seem to me an essential step, yet, it is suggested such has not happened. Why?

 

"Clearly, this situation requires urgent consideration and remedial action.

 

"Accordingly, I look forward to hearing from you as to your plans".