THE Health Minister has paid tribute to the dedicated service of a local GP. Dr Alison Smith is retiring after almost 26 years of service and Robin Swann said the highly thought of GP will be missed by both colleagues and patients. Last week the Health Minister visited the busy Clough surgery of the Dundrum and Clough Family Practice to meet Dr Smith and her colleagues, who serve more than 7,000 patients in the South Down area. Dr Smith, who is retiring at the end of March, has specialist interests in women’s health, diabetes, learning disability and care for the elderly. Speaking following his visit to Clough, Minister Swann said: “I was delighted to visit the Clough surgery to mark the retirement of Dr Alison Smith and to extend my best wishes to her as she leaves the practice after so many years of dedicated service. “I know that Dr Smith is very highly thought of by her colleagues in the practice and by her patients, and she will be missed by all. “Dr Smith and her colleagues at the Dundrum and Clough Practice have been at the forefront of innovations, in particular the implementation of the Multi-Disciplinary Team (MDT) model in the Down Federation. “The recent extension to the premises here at Clough has been part of the roll-out of that initiative.” The practice has recognised both the need for change, and the opportunity that new ways of working provides to improve the quality of care which it can offer to its patients. “Dr Smith is an outstanding example of the dedication and professionalism of our GP services. “I also want to take this opportunity to thank each and every one of the practice staff for the tireless and ongoing treatment, care and support that they provide to patients, particularly over the past two years. I know it has not been easy. “This has been an incredibly stressful and anxious time for so many of our population and no less so for our GP workforce and their teams who have been in the vanguard of our response to Covid,” the Health Minister concluded. Dundrum and Clough Family Practice is based in premises in Dundrum and Clough. Historically there were two practices, one in Clough and the other in Dundrum, but in 1985 both practices joined to form a partnership. The Down Federation of Family Practices (Down GP Federation) was one of the initial roll-out sites for the Primary Care MDT programme. In addition to the investment in new staff in GP practices in these areas, there has also been investment in premises that house GP practices to ensure that the new staff can be accommodated. In January 2020, the official opening of the extension of Clough Family Practice took place. The extension increased the size of the surgery, with the redevelopment of the GP premises as part of the MDT project to ensure there was sufficient space to accommodate all the new MDT staff, including health visitors and practice nurses. South Down UUP councillors Jill Macauley and Alan Lewis have also paid tribute to Dr Smith. “We would like to take this opportunity to wish Dr Smith every best wish for the new chapter in her life,” they said. “Alison has served the community of Clough and Dundrum with such attention and dedication over the years, and we have no doubt that her presence will be missed in the local surgeries. “We thank our party colleague and Health Minister Robin Swann MLA for taking the time to call with Alison and all the staff at Clough Health Centre to acknowledge her retirement, as well as seeing around their impressive state-of-the-art facilities. “On behalf of the local community we want to say a big thank you to Alison for all your kindness and service over many years, which is undoubtedly appreciated very much. Wishing you a long, healthy and happy retirement with your family,” the councillors concluded.