Sid Valley Practice is under ‘unprecedented pressure’, caused by four doctors leaving during a national shortage of GPs.

Three of the vacancies have been advertised, locally and nationally, for eight months, but attracted no applicants. The fourth GP, Dr James Kabza, has only recently given notice.

The practice, based at The Beacon Medical Centre, says patients may have to wait longer for routine appointments, as the remaining GP Partners cope with double the number of patients they had a year ago, and the other clinical and admin staff also struggle with a much heavier workload.

GP Partner Dr Sara Hadfield said: “There is a national shortage of GPs, and our profession is subject to a recruitment crisis. Both across Devon and nationally there remain many hundreds of unfilled GP posts, and unfortunately morale within general practice is low, with very few new GPs taking up permanent posts. Recruitment is not only a problem with doctors though; all roles from nursing to administration and management are hard to fill. Again, this is not a problem unique to Sidmouth.

“All our staff are working additional hours and going above and beyond to try and meet these enormous challenges; we value their commitment enormously. Sadly, not only is their workload increasing, but abuse from patients is increasing too. It is not unusual to find staff upset and tearful because of the way they have been spoken to. This is unacceptable and impacts on the services we can offer patients.

“We are distraught to find ourselves so stretched at this present time, especially moving into the autumn and winter. We are trying to provide the best service we can but demand has risen and our workforce has reduced significantly. Many businesses are closing their doors on several days a week, but we cannot and do not want to do this.”

She said the practice is actively seeking to build back its clinical team. Two new Advanced Nurse Practitioners will start in October, and it is also hoping to attract GPs returning to work after periods outside medicine.

In the meantime, the practice is prioritising urgent cases and the care of vulnerable patients, and is asking people seeking routine appointments to explore alternatives such as their local pharmacy or the 111 NHS helpline. There is advice on the practice website, the NHS website and the Patient Health Check and Symptom Guide website