Patients registered at a medical centre in Derry have been told they are being struck off their surgery register because they live too far away, the ‘Journal’ has learned.
Angry patients from the Quayside Medical Practice, some of whom have been with the surgery for more than 60 years, say they were deeply upset to receive letters informing them they have just four weeks to find a new doctor.
In a letter, shown to the ‘Journal,’ doctors at the surgery told patients that up until now they had allowed patients who had moved to an address outside a six mile radius of the surgery to remain registered with them. However, they can no longer allow this because they need to make room for new patients who do live within the specified area.
The ‘Journal’ has spoken to patients who say after years of being with the practice and developing a relationship with their GPs they have been given less than a month to find a new doctor.
One patient told the ‘Journal’ that she had received a letter from the practice stating they will be notifying the Business Services Organisation on March 5 that she lived outside the area.
“I got the letter long after March 5,” she said. “The decision had been made and we are being de-registered. We didn’t even have a chance to appeal anything as it was all taken care of before we got our first letter. My father is currently undergoing medical tests which are very worrying and to receive this letter in the middle of everything was very upsetting.
“Four generations of our family have gone through the surgery. None of us had a chance to say anything as it was all underway by the time we knew anything about it. No personal circumstances were taken into account, we were treated as a postcode instead of individuals; children, pensioners, the healthy, the sick, those in the middle of getting a diagnosis - it didn’t matter.”
The woman also claimed that there is confusion about the distance the practice covers.
“In the letter we were told that the surgery only covers a six mile radius,” she said. “We’ve checked this on the map and we do fall within this six miles radius.
“After this was pointed out to the surgery they admitted they thought a radius was ‘driving distance’ on google route finder, but they were not prepared to back track on the decision as the de-registering process was already underway with the BSO.”
Patients at the practice have also received letters from the Business Services Organisation at the Department of the Health & Social Care Board stating that it will be removing the name of any person who resides outside of the area that the practice has agreed to provide general medical services to - unless the practice signs a declaration that it will, if necessary, visit the patient at their new address.
The letters stated that in this case, Quayside, are not prepared to do so.
Quayside Medical Practice told the ‘Journal’ it had fully explained the reasons for the move in a letter to patients.
The letter states that patients outside the area must be de-registered because doctors cannot make home visits to patients outside the area and patient care may be compromised.
They added that the surgery was experiencing an increase in demand from new patients who do live in the area and have been de-registered from other practices.
Stating that it had no further comment to make, Quayside Medical advised any patients with queries to contact them directly and that any patient who had issues in finding another GP should make an appointment to come in and see them or contact them by telephone.
The situation regarding the surgery is understood to affect a number of families who live just outside the city limits.
Last night a spokesperson for the Health & Social Care Board said: “The Health and Social Care Board can confirm that Quayside Medical GP Practice in Derry/Londonderry has recently reviewed its policy to apply the existing practice boundary as per the General Medical Contract.
“The partners of the practice feel that in order for patients to receive a full General Medical Service, they should be registered with a Practice in their locality. The review of the policy has, unfortunately, therefore resulted in some patients being removed from the Practice List. All affected patients received an individual letter from the Practice explaining the rationale behind this decision. The Practice is happy to discuss any queries or issues with these patients on an individual basis.”
On their website Quayside Medical stated: “We have regretfully informed all patients on the practice list with an address outside the area. that they should now register at a practice that covers the area in which they live.”
The ‘Journal’ contacted a number of surgeries in the Derry area to ask what their policy was regarding patients. Two told us they are still admitting patients from all areas, however one said it cannot guarantee a home visit from a doctor. Another has its books closed and a fourth claimed it would only de-register patients when they move address.