The story of a Cornish fishing town’s hunt for a new family doctor has a happy ending after health chiefs stepped in.
Locals in the picturesque port of Mevagissey faced losing their GP surgery after GP Dr Kathy James handed in her notice.
Their hunt for a replacement, which had the social media hashtag #willyoubemygp and included a message written in the sand, sparked world-wide attention and drew comparisons with TV hit Doc Martin.
Now, thanks to their campaigning and hard work behind the scenes by NHS England and NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group, the surgery serving 5,300 people has been saved.
GPs at the Veor Surgery in Camborne, about 30 miles away, have agreed to take on the practice and employ more staff to support Dr James, who has decided to stay on. Patients are receiving the good news in a letter being sent out today.
Supporting and expanding GP services is a key plank of the NHS long Term Plan and funding for primary medical and community care increase as a share of the NHS budget for the first time in the health service’s 70-year history, with an extra £4.5 billion invested by 2023.
NHS England will fund an army of 20,000 more staff to help GP practices work together as part of a local ‘primary care networks’ which will be launched next month.
Dr Nikki Kanani, NHS England and Improvement’s interim medical director who is a GP, said: “A lot of hard work has gone in to ensuring the Mevagissey practice stays open for its 5,300 patients and it is vital that we retain and support experienced family doctors like Dr James.
“It is good to see surgeries collaborating in this way, which is exactly how we envisage practices large and small working to support each other, providing a wider range of services to patients who can get the care they need close to home.”
Nick Kaye, partner at the Veor Surgery, said: “When we saw the local TV coverage of the community campaign to find a GP for the surgery, we all agreed we wanted to help.
“The communities’ response was inspiring, and we are so pleased we were able to work with Dr James to keep GP services in the heart of Mevagissey.
“With Dr James’ experience and our support, we are confident we can provide great care for patients. As a Pharmacist Partner, I will be working from Mevagissey for half of the week and we are already recruiting Urgent Care Practitioners’ and GPs to strengthen the existing team.”
Dr James said she was delighted a solution had been found, adding: “I am really pleased I can continue caring for the patients of Mevagissey surgery. I have been overwhelmed by the support that everyone has offered and the hard work to achieve this positive outcome for the community.”
Elizabeth Meldon Smith, Chair of the Patient Participation Group, which ran the #willyoubemyGP campaign, said: “This is fantastic news for the community, and for all patients of Mevagissey Surgery. We are looking forward to welcoming our new partners to the practice. Thank you to everyone for their unwavering dedication to raising the profile of our wonderful village surgery.”
NHS England and Kernow CCG looked at eight different proposals to resolve the Mevagissey issue after it became clear that a dispersal of patients would not be possible for the community.
The patients campaign found three potential GPs who they recommended to NHS England’s primary care team. They expressed an interest in being salaried GPs at Mevagissey Surgery and their details have been passed on to Veor.
Ian Biggs, Director of Primary Care and Public Health for NHS England and NHS Improvement in the South West said: “We’re really pleased that after significant work by our teams behind the scenes, the GP community and the energy of local people, this positive outcome will ensure continuity at the practice and means that there will be more stability for the future. We hope that patients feel that this is welcome news after a period of uncertainty.
“I would like to thank everyone who came to our patient information sessions and provided valuable feedback in our survey. It’s so important for us to truly understand the impact on patients when looking at options for ongoing access to GP services.”