Like the rest of Britain, Northern Ireland is facing a shortage of family doctors. However, this shortage is acute in certain parts of the country. In fact, in Portadown Health Centre, the Bannview GP Practice does not have a single GP. The practice states that there are no GPs because some are sick, a few have resigned, and the others are on maternity leave.
Presently, Bannview GP Practice is being covered by locum doctors. Health authorities are currently negotiating a deal with a medical contractor to take over the practice. However, as of now, the negotiations have not produced a result.
Upper Bann MLA Jo-Anne Dobson stated that for several months, Bannview GP Practice has been facing an issue with family doctors, and now pressure is mounting on the practice to resolve the crisis. About 5,200 local patients have been affected, and Dobson said that health authorities need to find a solution quickly so that the 45,000 patients that visit GP practices at Portadown Health Centre do not have to face a similar situation.
Dobson also mentioned that while she appreciated the discussion that the health board is holding with a medical contractor to take over the practice, she was worried that the best interests of patients were not being served. The board has not revealed how it will ensure that patients get the necessary GP coverage as quickly as possible. She said that expecting one GP to provide healthcare to over 5,000 patients is unacceptable and unfair to the doctor and patients.
British Medical Association Northern Ireland General Practitioners Committee Chair Dr Tom Black stated that the problem in Portadown Health Centre needs to be addressed urgently as the issues affecting the health centre were also affecting other GP practices in several parts of Northern Ireland.
Dr Black pointed out that hundreds of GPs in Northern Ireland have sent undated resignation letters to the NHS, and this kind of GP crisis was last witnessed in 1948.