A village has launched a national appeal to protect their GP services, asking doctors: ‘Will you be my GP?’
Mevagissey Surgery, the only practice in the Cornish fishing village Mevagissey, could close on 31st July, leaving 5,300 residents without a GP.
It was announced last month that its partner, Dr Katherine James, will resign and end her contract to run the surgery on this date. This led to fears that without intervention, the well-regarded community practice will close, meaning that locals will have to travel further afield to access a GP. The nearest medium-sized town, St Austell, is eight miles away.
The community has come together to encourage partners and salaried GPs from around the country to work in Mevagissey, predominantly via a campaign dubbed #WillYouBeMyGP on social media. While Mevagissey itself, the county’s second-largest fishing port, has a population of 2,000, the remainder of the practice’s registered patients are from nearby areas, often rural. In addition, the many tourists who visit Cornwall, particularly in the summer, need medical care available.
Steve Double MP told Pulse: ‘I was made aware of the issues around Mevagissey Surgery when constituents contacted me about it earlier in May.
‘Since then I have been supportive of the positive campaign from the community in Mevagissey and the surrounding area, which has certainly done wonders in raising the profile of the issue and engaging interest from local people in attending and taking part in the consultation.’
James Mustoe, who co-runs the campaign, explained to Pulse: ‘As the local councillor for Mevagissey, when I heard of the problems with the future of our village surgery, it was clear that as a community we needed to come together and do whatever was needed to preserve this vital facility for ours and future generations. We quickly established a small group of people, all volunteers, to see what we could do.
‘We had to do it quickly so set up a Facebook group which had approaching 1,000 members after just one week. And started “advertising” Mevagissey with a variety of images with the #WillYouBeMyGP hashtag all over social media. Also a traditional petition which was signed by nearly 4,000 people in just under three weeks.
‘It is fair to say the campaign has gathered incredible momentum, picking up local, national and even international attention in a very short space of time.
‘It has also been raised in Parliament to the prime minister and health minister by our MP, both in terms of supporting the immediate campaign but also in terms of what more the Government can do to attract GPs to rural areas like ours in the long term.
A spokesperson for NHS England & NHS Improvement South West said: ‘Dr James has formally let us know she will end her contract to provide all GP care and will no longer provide GP services at Mevagissey Surgery after 31st July 2019.
‘As joint commissioners of primary care, NHS England & NHS Improvement and NHS Kernow Clinical Commissioning Group’s immediate priority is to look at all options available to us for patients of Mevagissey Surgery and we are working at pace to explore all of the possibilities.
‘It’s our duty to make sure people continue to have access to GP care, and we want to make sure that happens in the best way possible.
‘In the meantime, all services continue at Mevagissey Surgery and patients should book and attend appointments as normal.
Figures obtained by Pulse show that nearly 140 surgeries closed last year, estimated to affect a record half a million patients – more closures than in any previous year, and almost eight times the number seen in 2013.
If you’re interested in taking on the role of Mevagissey’s new GP, please email email@example.com.
Image credit: Twitter.com/WillYouBeMyGP