North Down Alliance representatives express concern over local GP surgeries changing hands

North Down Alliance representatives have expressed concern following news two GP surgeries are to be taken over by the South Eastern Health Trust after the resignations of GP partners at both practices.

Health North Down

The Priory and Springhill GP Practice, which operates from two sites in Holywood and Bangor, was scheduled to shut early this year unless new doctors were found to run them by February 1. But following the failure of negotiations, the Trust will now run them on a temporary basis.

North Down MP Stephen Farry said it was concerning news.

“In light of today’s news, we have learnt discussions with the potential contractor had collapsed at the end of last week. With time running out and seemingly no other options in the short term, we wrote to the Permanent Secretary in the Department of Health and the Trust Chief Executive regarding the Trust directly assuming the management of the surgeries.

“We are hopeful this is just a temporary solution and discussions to secure a longer-term replacement contractor will continue as a matter of urgency. We have ongoing concerns around the level of coverage and service that will be offered as a result, and will be seeking further reassurances around this from the Trust.”

North Down MLA Andrew Muir said long-term partners for the practice must be put in place without delay.

“I am deeply concerned we now find ourselves in this situation. I have been inundated with correspondence from constituents terrified they will not be able to access primary care from February onwards. We had received reassurances from the Department negotiations were ongoing and details were being ironed out following new contractors being identified during recent months.

“I welcome communication from the Trust stating the surgeries will remain open and under their direct management, and patients should continue to contact the surgeries as normal in the time ahead. We are urgently seeking a meeting with the Department to get confirmation around operational details in light of this announcement and reassurance around the levels of service offered to patients in the months ahead.

“Unfortunately, this situation reflects the broader crisis our health service is facing at present with an acute shortage of doctors and sky-high demand for services. It is deeply concerning we are having to navigate this crisis without a Minster or functioning Executive in place.”

Fellow MLA Connie Egan said the news was disappointing for local people.

“It is concerning negotiations have now fallen through and the surgeries at Priory and Springhill will be operated by the Trust.

“In light of this development, we are seeking assurances around the level of coverage and service these surgeries will be able to offer the residents of Bangor and Holywood. We will be closely monitoring the situation on behalf of all patients and have contacted the Permanent Secretary of the Department of Health for clarity.

"We hope this is just a temporary solution and would urge all stakeholders to continue to engage in discussions in relation to sourcing a replacement contractor to run these vital GP services. We will keep working hard to secure future of GP services and once again urge restoration of the Assembly and Executive to enable long overdue, long-term strategic interventions to rebuild our health service."