PATIENTS from Hatherleigh and Shebbear surgeries are being asked to travel by minibus to Holsworthy surgery for medical appointments until further notice.

NHS England said Ruby Country Medical Group’s surgeries and clinics in the villages' community halls were not working out.

Patients have been using the ad hoc arrangements after an eleventh hour hiccup in Holsworthy-based RCMG receiving the keys to the Holsworthy and Shebbear surgeries.

‘Unfortunately, the limitations of the community halls and further issues arising from the previous contract mean we’ve had to make immediate changes to ensure that patients continue to get safe care,’ said Amanda Fisk, director of assurance and delivery for NHS England in the South West.

‘Although the halls can’t be used, we’re laying on a minibus so patients can get to Holsworthy and are looking at how best to provide prescription medicines. We’ll be writing to all patients over coming days to explain how we aim to bring services back into the community.

‘Please also keep an eye on the practice website for further information, as that will be updated constantly.’

Ruby Country Medical Group (RCMG) runs the surgeries in Holsworthy and Stratton, over the border in Cornwall.

The group was supposed to get the keys to Hatherleigh Medical Centre and Beech House Surgery in Shebbear when it took over running them in early July.

However they were withheld after the practice failed to come to an agreement with previous incumbent, retiring GP Dr Francis Fernandez.

NHS England said in a briefing note that the practice had been forced to run services from Hatherleigh Community Centre and Shebbear Village Hall, ‘because the Ruby County Medical Group was unable to gain support from Dr Fernandez for continued use of the existing services’.

It added that IT problems ‘had also made it difficult to sustain a presence’ in the community halls. There is also no dispensary, which means patients are having to travel to pharmacies in Okehampton or Holsworthy to get their medications.

The practice is looking into the possibility of providing a mobile surgery while more permanent premises are found for the two surgeries.

Hatherleigh Medical Centre was deemed to be ‘inadequate’ overall in a Care Quality Commission report in April. The report said that while the services provided by the surgery were caring, effective and responsive to people’s needs, they were not ‘well-led’.