THE sole doctors' surgery in Minehead has suddenly closed "until further notice" this morning (Tuesday, January 23).

Patients arriving at Minehead Medical Centre, in Irnham Road, were greeted by locked door.

A notice says: "Unfortunately due to circumstances beyond our control we have been advised we can no longer operate as a GP surgery until further notice.

"We can honour appointments this morning already booked but are unable to book any further appointments.

"Please ring 111/MIU (Minor Injury Unit) or ring 999 if an emergency."

The reason for the sudden closure is not stated on the notice and the County Gazette has been unable to contact anyone at the surgery.

Local MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said he is urgently looking for answers as he had not been informed of the imminent closure of the centre, which caters for 13,000 patients.

"We're in touch with the health authority," he said.

"There seems to have been some form of inspection and it's gone wrong.

"It appears a Section 31 notice was issued saying an improvement plan needed to be submitted, which they have failed to do.

"The Integrated Care Board is trying to put a replacement in for the time being and a company called Symphony has been mooted."

Mr Liddell-Grainger added: "I'm trying to find out with urgency what the situation is to reassure the people of Minehead and Alcombe and to see what we can do about it and who will be the doctors in Minehead.

"You can't not have a GP surgery in a town the size of Minehead with an ageing population.

"I'm doing everything I can. We need to work together on this. It's really an unsatisfactory position.

"I'm concerned people could be left high and dry."

Patient Alan Conner said: "Closing a surgery until further notice is just an indication of what they've felt about their patients.

"It's difficult to get them to phone you back.

"They've been working with locums for quite a while. Maybe they've reached a stage where they can't trade properly."

The County Gazette has requested a comment from the Care Quality Commission.

Minehead Medical Centre become the country's first individual GP practice to operate as a John Lewis Style Employee-Owned Trust (EOT) in 2022.

The move enabled the practice to offer GPs and other health staff a say in how their practice was run.

A key driver in the decision to incorporate firstly as a limited company and then as an EOT is to help protect the ongoing stability and sustainability of the practice by making it a more attractive place for staff to work and develop their careers.

Minehead Medical Centre, along with many practices in rural areas, has found it challenging to recruit staff because of its geographic location.