HELPING patients in Minehead to make appointments with the right medical staff at the right time is one of the top priorities for the new team behind the town’s only GP practice.

OneMedical took over Minehead Medical Centre last week after it closed without warning following news that healthcare regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) was about to suspend the care provider.

The Irnham Road premises run by Dr Ed Ford closed at lunchtime on the Tuesday but was reopened the following morning by Leeds-based OneMedical.

NHS Somerset had been working with OneMedical for some time to prepare for the takeover in the knowledge that the medical centre had failed to make improvements required by the CQC over a period of about 18 months.

OneMedical chief executive Dr William Dawson told the Free Press he recognised access to services at the medical centre was a major source of complaints locally, particularly for vulnerable groups of people.

Dr Dawson said his team would prioritise the issue so ‘people get the right access at the right time and we deliver the right care when people need it’.

He said OneMedical’s role was largely to support the surgery’s existing staff and help to make the improvements to the practice which the CQC and NHS Somerset wanted to see.

Dr Dawson said OneMedical had been appointed in a ‘caretaker’ role for the three months covered by the CQC suspension notice with an option to extend the contract for another nine months, but he did not know what would happen thereafter.

In the meantime, he said the surgery would be seen to operate almost on a business as usual basis with little visible change for patients.

Dr Dawson said: “It will be evolution rather than revolution, we are supporting the team, the same doctors, nurses, and practitioners who were there.

“Patients will turn up and see the same doctors and nurses that they have seen over the last few years.

“We are not taking away any services at all, we want to expand on them so patients will feel like they are getting more.”

Dr Dawson said the aim was to stabilise the Minehead practice and enable it to continue delivering services in a sustainable long-term manner, which would be achieved with help from hard-working NHS Somerset.

He recognised there had been recruitment issues with the practice experiencing difficulties in attracting GPs to Minehead.

But other surgeries in West Somerset were able to successfully recruit, so there were lessons which might need to be learned to improve the position in Minehead.

West Somerset MP Ian Liddell-Grainger praised the response by NHS Somerset to last week’s crisis as ‘magnificent’.

Mr Liddell-Grainger said: “I am afraid admin staff at the centre had to field a lot of angry calls from patients.

“But thankfully NHS Somerset immediately appreciated how serious the situation was and got the wheels in motion.

“That the surgery was able to open as usual and accept all patients with appointments on Wednesday was the result of outstanding teamwork, and I congratulate all those involved.”