An independent member of Fermanagh and Omagh District Council has called for Direct Contracting of GP services, as the crisis in the sector worsens as the impending closure of Dromore and Trillick practices loom.

The Department of Health have confirmed “intensive efforts” are ongoing to secure a contractor to take over, while the Western Health and Social Care Trust advised it is not involved or assisting as it “does not provide GP services”.

Councillor Donal O’Cofaigh, Independent, told members access to primary care and GPs: "Is critical in so many regards leading to quicker, better, less costly treatment as well as catching things early when simpler medicines can be more effective with better outcomes. Yet we are looking at over 5,000 people being denied access to that."

Stressing this is not a new phenomenon, he stated: “This has been going on for years. Around five years ago a doctor from the British Medical Association said we were going to have the worst crisis in GP care in this area, across the whole of the UK. And so it has come to pass. I don’t believe it's mismanagement but instead is actively part of the privatisation agenda.”

Councillor O’Cofaigh continued: “Unfortunately it is continually common today to speak to people who are paying to see a GP because they cannot wait. The reality is we will not see action. All sorts of excuses will be found.

"The displaced patients will perhaps be drafted into other overworked practices. The results will be horrific. Waits to even speak to a GP probably won’t be allowed as patients will speak to an ANP (Advanced Nursing Practitioner) instead. But if you’re willing to pay £70 for a GP consultation, you’ll see one straightaway. That’s what this is all about – privatisation. This is driven, not just from London but also unfortunately in Belfast, in my opinion.”

He suggested Direct Contracting of GPs. This is where GPs are directly contracted by the Trust as opposed to in a corporate business/practice. The councillor added: “There are vested interests standing against that. The only way we’ll save GP services is by Direct Contacting. This has happened in Portadown when the GP service there collapsed. Direct Contacted GP services were provided so why isn’t that being done here? I wish I was wrong but I strongly feel that is the only way to save services".

When approached in regards to the worsening situation a spokesperson for the Department of Heath stated: “Intensive efforts are continuing to secure a contractor to take over GP services at Dromore and Trillick practice. A number of potential avenues are being explored.

"Dr. Declan Morgan has been the sole contract holder for Dromore and Trillick Practice since July 1, 2020. His period of notice runs until June 30, 2022 and patients should continue to contact the practice as usual.

"If no contractor be can identified at that point, under the GMS Contract, patients registered with Dr Morgan, Dromore/Trillick would be dispersed to GP Practices in the local area.We would like to thank patients for their on-going patience and support for staff during this period.”

Meanwhile a Western Trust spokesperson responded: “The Trust is not assisting with service provision issues with the Dromore and Trillick GP practices as it does not provide any GP services. GP practices requiring support will seek that through discussion with the GP Federation and the Department of Health.”