VULNERABLE villagers could spend hours getting to and from GP appointments if their local surgery closes, it is feared.

Patients would have to make a six-mile round trip to Wiveliscombe if the Milverton practice shuts.

Some people in Milverton, which has an elderly population, would have to struggle 900 metres for a bus to Wiveliscombe.

The closure is being mooted as four doctors from Wiveliscombe-based Lister House, which runs Milverton's surgery, are leaving and want to sell the Creedwell Orchard premises.

They have failed to recruit replacement GPs, so Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust is overseeing the surgery "short term" from August.

Milverton parish councillor Jenny Hoyle, of Lister House Patients' Group, said: "We're really concerned.

"Courtfields is a 900-metre walk to the bus stop and Creedwell is 700 metres - if someone's disabled it'll take a whole morning or afternoon to get to the doctor and home."

Mrs Hoyle, a board member of Wivey Link, which provides transport for people unable to get around, added: "They've mentioned using Wivey Link, but a sudden influx of people would create a big strain."

District councillor Gwil Wren said: "There's been a surgery in Milverton for 90 years and suddenly they're threatening to close it.

"We've had four weeks' notice that the trust is keeping services in the village short term, but nobody knows what the future holds."

Patients' group chairman Peter Berman said the agreement with the trust avoids a private company takeover, adding that the trust is involving the group "fully in developments".

"This will naturally include any proposals regarding the Milverton branch, but we understand no closure can take place without the consent of NHS England," he added.

"They'd wish to ensure full consultation with local people has taken place and a case for closure has been made."

A joint statement from Drs Sarah Phillips, Mike Rostron, Steffi Bridgman and John Trepess, who will all have left by the end of July, said: "With regards to Milverton surgery, the partners offered to sell the building to Somerset partnership, but the offer was declined.

"The partners are therefore renting the building to them from August 1. The building is not currently being marketed for sale.

"A service will continue to be provided from the premises until a decision has been made by Somerset Partnership and NHS England about the long-term viability of Milverton branch surgery."

Somerset Partnership NHS Foundation Trust medical director Dr Andrew Dayani said: "This means primary care services are protected for the local area.

"Being part of a larger organisation will also give patients access to a broader range of services as Somerset Partnership plans to offer some health clinics at the GP surgery.

“We're working closely with NHS England, the GP practice staff and patients to make sure this change is as smooth as possible.”

A trust spokeswoman said: "One option is that all services will be delivered from Wiveliscombe with improved transport being provided to support access."