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Reassurance offered to patients of local medical practice as GP announces retirement


North Antrim Ulster Unionist Robin Swann MLA has sought to offer reassurance to patients of Kells & Connor Medical Practice after lead GP Dr Richard Bill, announced his plans to retire by the end of April 2023.


The former Northern Ireland Health Minister was speaking after he and party colleague Councillor Keith Turner recently met with Peter May, the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health (DoH), and Dr Margaret O'Brien, Head of Primary Care, where they discussed the future of general practice in the village.  



All patients of the surgery (aged 16 and over) received a letter from the DoH informing them of Dr Bill's retirement plans, saying:


"I am writing to inform you that Dr Richard Bill, General Practitioner (GP), in Kells & Connor Medical Practice, has notified the Strategic Planning and Performance Group of his intention to resign from the practice thereby ending the contract with the Strategic Planning and Performance Group.


"Dr Richard Bill will be resigning on 30th April 2023 and his contract with the Strategic Planning and Performance Group will end on the same date".



The letter continued:


"There is no requirement for you to join a different practice at this time. Dr Richard Bill and the Strategic Planning and Performance Group would assure all patients that the practice will continue until 30th April 2023.


"The Strategic Planning and Performance Group is currently seeking a replacement doctor/practice to care for the patients of Kells & Connor Medical Practice and is planning to have this in place by 30th April 2023.


"We will keep all patients informed of any developments".



Following the meeting to discuss the challenges being experienced in local GP provision in Kells and the wider Ballymena area, the two UUP representatives said it was then apparent that there was “a need for certainty over the future management of the Kells practice”.   


Councillor Keith Turner said:


“Letters have now been issued to the patients of the Kells practice, but it is imperative that all the options available to the Department are fully explored and an alternative and permanent solution put in place before the end of April.”  


North Antrim MLA Robin Swann commented:


“While this is an unsettling time, the patients of Kells practice should be reassured that the service will continue and that now isn’t the time to either undermine the confidence in the practice, or those who continue to work in it, for the good of the people of the villages and surrounding areas.  


“But there is a duty on the Department to ensure that General Practice is funded appropriately.”  



Councillor Turner added:


“During the meeting, I was reassured that medical provision across the Ballymena area was being addressed at the highest level and that solutions to the recent announcements regarding the medical practices in the Ballymena health centre and that of the Kells and Connor practice were being considered with favourable outcomes looking very likely.  


“We left the meeting with the Department officials feeling extremely positive about the region’s future healthcare provision and hope that any forthcoming announcements from the Department will help allay any fears from the public.”


Love Ballymena asked the Department of Health for comment and is still awaiting the department's response.

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