A DOCTOR and manager who work at a Neyland surgery set for closure have spoken about the breaking-point pressure which has led to the decision.

Dr Jenny Boyce, and practice manager Judith Schofield spoke to the Mercury about what has led the Argyle Medical Group to consider closing St Clement’s Surgery, Neyland following a public consultation on Thursday, January 25.

Both are worried the service as it stands is not sustainable, and could affect the health of overstretched staff and their ability to make clinical decisions.

“This is nothing to do with money,” Jenny stressed. “It is about safety. Safety for the doctors and clinical staff, and for the patients.

“That has got to be our paramount concern. At the end of the day we only want to help our patients, but if we are all so exhausted then that is when errors occur.”

When the Argyle group first took over St Clement’s surgery 11 years ago, there were five and a half full-time equivalent doctors and a nurse practitioner covering that surgery alone, serving 13,500 patients.

“Now in the Argyle group, we have 74,500 patients and we have only eight and a half FTE doctors, and four nurse practitioners,” said Judith.

Staff work across three surgeries: Argyle Street and St Oswald’s, Pembroke Dock and St Clement’s, Neyland.

Clinical staff often come in on days-off to cover illness and help with high patient demand.

Dr Richard Bury, a retired GP, has come back to work for two days of the week, and is now planning to move up to three.

Jenny said: “People don’t see this. They see the one consultation they are having, but we have 18 consultations in the morning, then we might do five or six home visits that could cover a huge distance and time.”

The surgery’s staff also sign up to 800 prescriptions a day. All of this has an effect on the staff’s work-life balance.

Over the Christmas period, the medical group had their busiest year on record, seeing 103 patients in one day alone, with multiple doctors coming in during days off.

On average, the Argyle group sees 60-70 patients a day, more than the national average of 40-50 according to GP trade publication Pulse Magazine.

The demand could be coped with if the Argyle group had its full complement of 13 GPs, but as doctors have retired or moved away, the surgery has been unable to replace them.

“It is not just us,” said Jenny. “It is a nationwide problem, but we are on the periphery down here.”

The surgery have advertised vacancies in the British Medical Journal, taken part in Hywel Dda’s wider recruitment drive, taken on student GPs, and trained new nurse practitioners.

“We are doing our level best,” said Jenny. “The care we provide is good. A lot of our practitioners can provide care that others would have to send to hospital for.”

But manager and GP alike say that if the current situation continues, the safest option is to close St Clement’s.

“At the end of the day, it is about creating good, sustainable healthcare for the people of South Pembrokeshire,” said Jenny.

The application to close St Clement's has been submitted to Hywel Dda for consideration, and consultation with the public continues.