MINEHEAD residents in need of a doctor have been left “high and dry” by often having wait at least three weeks for an appointment since the number of full-time GPs in the town has shrunk from ten to one, angry patients claimed this week.
Protesting that elderly residents were suffering in the current situation, Minehead Hospital League of Friends secretary Alan Hemsley called on Somerset’s NHS Trust and Somerset Clinical Commissioning Group responsible for allocating health resources to drastically improve local services.
Mr Hemsley claimed the number of Minehead GPs had fallen to one full-time and four part-time practitioners since the town’s two GP group practices had merged.
Mr Hemsley said this was a drop of at least 10 GPs compared with the years before the merger. He added that the closure of Minehead’s Minor Injuries Unit’s overnight service was still “unexplained” by the NHS Trust.
“My questions about this closure and what replacement was planned remain unanswered,” Mr Hemsley said. He also questioned Trust figures regarding the use of the Minehead MIU for 999 calls and the number of South West emergency ambulances attending A and E at Musgrove Park hospital.
“I also asked whether some of the patients who had sadly died while waiting to be treated at A and E could have been seen at the Minehead MIU instead, thus reducing pressure on ambulances waiting to unload patients.”
Noting that the Board was reported to be trying to develop plans for an “urgent care model” for West Somerset, Mr Hemsley asked: “Since Minehead and West Somerset have been without overnight urgent care for seven months, is it morally right for the Trust to make the closure permanent when there is nothing to replace it? “
Asked if the League of Friends could progress these hospital and GP issues, Mr Hemsley said: ‘It seems all we can do is carry on banging on doors and shouting down telephones until we get a response.”
Minehead’s Irnham Lodge medical centre merged with the neighbouring Harley House practice in 2019 and closed last year. Before the merger the two practices had six GPs and a total of over 13,000 patients.
Local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger added his voice to concerns about the lack of Minehead GPs, saying: “Unfortunately this is not a new problem. Persuading practitioners to relocate to Minehead has always been a challenge.
“Despite the area’s many attractions, including wonderful countryside, it has been regarded as too remote and the journey time to the nearest private schools unacceptably long.
“We cannot compel doctors to come and work in Minehead but we should be looking at what incentives could be offered in order to make doing so a more attractive prospect.
“At the same time this merely underlines the fact that there must be no further run-down of any of the services currently being provided at Minehead Community Hospital.”
A local resident registered with the practice, who asked not to be named, said: “This is a really serious situation which needs to be investigated. It now seems impossible to get a face-to-face GP appointment for at least three weeks. Where have all the doctors gone? Have they all gone down the plughole?”
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