Dr Katherine James - the sole GP partner at a practice in Mevagissey, Cornwall - is due to end her contract to provide all GP services on 31 July 2019.
NHS England says it is ‘working at pace’ to explore ‘all options available’ to make sure the surgery’s 5,300 patients have continued access to GP care, but the practice faces possible closure unless a new partner is found - leaving residents with no option but to travel elsewhere for primary care services.
In a bid to save the surgery from closure, residents have produced a campaign video titled ‘Will you be my GP?’, which aims to persuade doctors to come and work in Mevagissey.
Will you be my GP?
Speaking in the video - which opens with aerial shots of the picturesque coastal village - Alex Williams, a member of the Mevagissey ‘SOS - Save Our Surgery' campaign, says: ‘We’re in the position where our only GP partner is resigning and ending her contract at the end of July and we would like to show you what a wonderful place Mevagissey is to live.’
The video features residents of Mevagissey - whose nearest town is St Austell, roughly eight miles away - expressing concern over the impact that closing the practice would have.
‘My mum’s 84 years old, she’s got Parkinson’s disease so the surgery and the support she gets from them is a real lifeline for her,’ one local resident said.
‘The fact that it’s so close means that she’s able to get there. The thought of her having to travel seven miles - she’s just not going to be able to do that. If the surgery wasn’t there we’d be calling more on emergency services to come and help her when she’s ill [and] that can’t be right. We need the surgery to stay open to support people like my mum in Mevagissey.’
A parish councillor in the neighbouring village of Gorran Haven says in the film: ‘We’re a very rural area. We’re a farming community and a fishing community. For us to get to St Austell to the doctors’ surgery would be a half hour walk to the bus stop and then an hour bus ride - so you're looking at a three-hour round trip.’
‘We love our GP, we love our Mevagissey surgery, we love our branch surgery in Gorran Haven and we need that service to continue, and we need a GP here to come to our beautiful community and to look after us. It has huge levels of support for surgery so please come and be our GP.’
Save our Surgery
A petition calling on the NHS ‘to take all steps necessary to retain a primary care facility in Mevagissey for the use of the village and surrounding communities’ has also been launched by the SOS campaign - receiving 1,544 signatures in just two weeks.
Meanwhile, a @WillYouBeMyGP Twitter page featuring photos of Mevagissey is being updated daily with information about the campaign as well as the village itself using the hashtag #WillYouBeMyGP.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Conservative MP for St Austell and Newquay Steve Double called on the government to support the campaign.
‘The people of Mevagissey have launched an incredible new campaign to find a new GP for their village,’ he said, asking health minister Stephen Hammond to ‘support the campaign and get the message out far and wide that there is an amazing community there waiting for a new GP’.
NHS People Plan
Mr Double also asked for reassurance that ‘this new People Plan does contain measures to not only recruit more doctors but to ensure that rural and coastal comms find the GPs that they desperately needs.’
Mr Hammond pledged to support the campaign and reassured Mr Double that the NHS workforce plan - also known as the People Plan - ‘sets out ways to recruit more doctors, retain more doctors, GPs in rural locations in coastal locations as well as in urban locations’.
The interim NHS workforce plan, published earlier this week, re-commits the government to delivering an extra 5,000 full-time equivalent GPs ‘as soon as possible’ - calling family doctors ‘more important than ever’. It pledges work to build on programmes such as the GP retention scheme, GP career plus and the local GP retention fund as well as launching a two-year primary care fellowship programme.