Patients at a County Antrim GP practice which is set to close next month have been thrown a lifeline after new GP services were announced for the area.
Patients had feared that they would have to travel for several miles to access medical services after the closure.
Now, Health Minister Michelle O’Neill has announced that a neighbouring surgery will open a new base in the nearby village of Carnlough to will provide a GP available four-and-a-half days a week and a full-time treatment room nurse operating.
The service will be a branch of Cushendall’s Glens of Antrim Medical Centre, which will be seeking a permanent base for the service.
Over 1,300 of the patients registered with Dr Glover’s Glenarm practice will be taken on by the expanded service in Carnlough, with other patients being registered with neighbouring GP practices.
Minister O’Neill said: “I am pleased to be able to outline the new GP services for the people of Carnlough and that residents in Glenarm will continue to be able to access GP services close to them.
“GPs are often at the heart of the rural communities they serve and that is why I am particularly pleased to be able to confirm the continuation and expansion of services in this area.”
Sinn Féin representative Oliver McMullan welcomed the announcement, which he said would “deliver improved services for many people.”
“Not only will this see services maintained in the area, but in fact it will deliver improved services for many people,” he stated.
“Previously there had been fears about access to GP services in the East Antrim and Glens area and I raised that directly with the health minister when I brought her to the area recently.
“While others engaged in scaremongering about access to GP services I worked with the health minister to ensure the service would be maintained and improved.
“There was a lot of work going on behind the scenes, a lot of delicate negotiations and I would like to congratulate all those involved.
“It has been done very quickly and will come into operation in April, and the new base in Carnlough will help as well.
“This is yet another example of Sinn Féin delivering for the community in East Antrim.”
East Antrim Alliance candidate Stewart Dickson also expressed his delight at the news that the new GP services had been agreed.
He stated: “I am delighted that Glenarm and Carnlough will be getting new GP services that will no doubt be a huge boost to those areas.
“It is good to see my lobbying pay off and create this new service that will be available from April.”
Retiring GP Dr Glover said that “time will tell” if patients are happy with the new arrangement.
“A big part of the solution is that there are going to be facilities in Carnlough which will make things a lot easier as people would have had trouble getting to Cushendall which is quite far away and there is quite a poor bus service,” he stated.
“The other 700 patients who will not be allocated to the Carnlough service will be allocated to GPs in Larne or Broughshane, and they will live within the 10 mile practice radius.”