GP practices in a Co Antrim town have submitted an open letter accusing the Health and Social Care Board of ‘misleading’ the public regarding the reallocation of patients from a Glenarm practice, saying it could affect the services they provide to patients.
The letter was submitted by Larne Family Practice on behalf of every GP surgery in Larne.
The group of GPs, which includes Corran Surgery, Inver Surgery and Victoria surgery in the Moyle Medical Centre and Larne Family Practice, Dr Black and Dr Lal Singh at Larne Health Centre, say they are ‘concerned’ at the reallocation of some of retiring Glenarm Dr Benedict Glover’s patients to Larne practices.
While over 1,300 of Dr Glover’s patients from the Antrim Coast Road Medical Practice will be taken on by a new ‘branch’ practice of Cushendall’s Glens of Antrim Medical Centre located in Carnlough, the remainder will be dispersed among Larne GPs.
Last week, the Department of Health issued a press release in which Health Minister Michelle O’Neill said she was “particularly pleased to be able to confirm the continuation and expansion of services” in Glenarm and Carnlough.
The press released confirmed that the remaining patients would be allocated to Larne surgeries.
However, the Larne GPs say they were “surprised to read the Health Minister’s press release” regarding patient reallocation to Larne, as “nothing was agreed” at a meeting they had with the HSCB on January 10.
Despite this lack of agreement, the group say that they “then received a letter advising us of the number of patients to be assigned to each practice.”
They added: “There has been no negotiation or further discussions with us.
“Therefore, in this instance, the public has been misled.
“The additional patients have the potential to affect the services we provide to all our patients.
“Patient safety and service is our utmost priority. We are open to further discussions as to how this is taken forward on an equitable basis for all patients.”
Dr Roma Caldwell, a partner at Larne Family Practice, said that the main area of contention was the lack of discussion with GPs.
“Our practice has 4,100 on its list and we would be getting an additional 83 patients allocated,” she explained.
“The problem isn’t the numbers, it’s the fact it hasn’t been discussed further, it has been imposed on us.
“Also, although the reallocated patients will be in a 10-mile radius they will be an elderly population with multiple medical complaints requiring house calls to remote areas.
“We want to make sure the Larne patients are protected as well as patients not being allowed to join the Cushendall service.”
A HSCB spokeswoman said: ”This closure affects just over 2000 patients.
“Glens of Antrim Medical Centre in Cushendall have agreed to set up a new Branch Surgery in Carnlough Village to take on 70 per cent of Antrim Coast Medical Practice patient list from April 1 2017.
“This equates to a 27 per cent increase in the list size of Glens of Antrim Medical Centre.
“To manage the remaining patients in a controlled way and to ensure that everyone continues to have access to a GP, the HSCB have allocated these patients across six neighbouring GP practices in Broughshane and Larne.
“The number of patients allocated to each of these practices is based on the current size of the practice and equates to a 1.9 per cent increase in list size for each of these practices.
“All of the Larne and Broughshane practices have open lists for patient registrations and all of the patients allocated to each practice are resident within that practice’s patient registration area.
“HSCB is happy to meet with Larne and Broughshane practices to discuss their concerns,” the spokeswoman concluded.