Tuesday, May 30, 2023


THE British Medical Association (BMA) has urged the Department of Health to work with it to help secure the future of a Kilkeel surgery. In a statement sent to the Mourne Observer, Dr Alan Stout, BMA Northern Ireland’s GP committee chair, said that any closure of the town’s Kilkeel Medical Practice would have “a serious, detrimental impact on neighbouring practices”, and he urged cooperation to “quickly find a solution”. Speculation about the future of the Greencastle Street premises and the concern this is causing locally had been highlighted by Mournes SDLP election candidate Dominic O’Reilly, who confirmed that he and party colleague Colin McGrath MLA are seeking a meeting with the Department of Health to discuss the issue. The Mourne Observer contacted BMA NI and the department for comment, though the latter had not replied at the time of going to print. Dr Stout responded that it is “always extremely worrying when we hear about another practice in difficulty and the associated impact closure will have on staff as well as patients”. “General practice across Northern Ireland is under sustained pressure trying to meet the increasing needs of patients in a health system that is failing,” he continued. “BMA has been warning for some time now that, as GPs retire, there is no one who wants to take on the challenge and stress of running a practice. “There are not enough GPs being trained here to meet need, and their workload is simply unsustainable.   “If this practice closes, it will have a serious, detrimental impact on neighbouring practices. “We have been in contact with SPPG (the department’s Strategic Planning and Performance Group) and are urging them to work with us and the practice to quickly find a solution.” Mr O’Reilly had stated that “speculation around the future of Kilkeel Medical Practice is causing serious concern for people in the area, with some already making plans to move to another facility”. “Local residents depend on this practice for their healthcare, with many families attending the practice for years, building up their own relationships and confidence with the doctors and staff there,” he added. The SDLP representative also said that the loss of the practice would be “a huge blow to the Kilkeel area and put further pressure on a health service that is already under extreme strain”. “People living in rural or isolated areas already face a significant struggle to access the healthcare they need, and the last thing we want is to see further barriers being put in place, leading to people facing longer waits for treatment,” he stated. The candidate confirmed that his party had already contacted BMA NI, whom he acknowledged recognises “how important this practice is for local families”. “In recent months, we have seen the futures of GP surgeries across the north left hanging in the balance, and we want to find solutions to whatever issues exist to stop the same thing happening in Kilkeel,” he concluded.

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