FEARS that a Warminster surgery could be on the verge of permanent closure have grown after its operating hours were reduced to just three mornings a week.

Patients at Smallbrook Surgery in The Avenue have been told that the practice’s operating hours have been drastically cut due to ‘unforeseen GP shortages’ and it will only be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 8.30am until 1pm for the next three months, as of March 6.

People will have to travel to the White Horse Health Centre when Smallbrook is not open for appointments, placing the Westbury practice and others in Warminster under even more pressure.

A Wiltshire Clinical Commissioning Group spokesman said: “The workforce challenges within the NHS, and most particularly the shortage of GPs and other primary care staff, have been widely reported nationally and locally and are now beginning to affect parts of Wiltshire.

“Whilst practices are determined to continue their patient relationships and to improve the quality and range of their services, the challenges are real.

“We are confident that the steps taken by Smallbrook are the right ones, in order to make sure that together with patients, we can respond to the developing healthcare landscape so that all Wiltshire practices can continue to provide quality care.”

A petition has been started by a worried patient and has been signed by over 400 people.

Mark Dickson, manager of the Westbury Group Practice, said: “It is completely understandable that some of our patients are concerned, however this is the best solution we can offer within the available resources.

“We are currently recruiting to address any capacity issues in all areas which will add resilience and robustness to our system to hopefully cope with the additional demand.”

A spokesman for Westbury’s Sensible Thinking on Patients (STOP) campaign group said this is a concern for the whole of west Wiltshire.

She said: “This will make it even harder for people in Westbury to get appointments and it will be difficult for people in Warminster to arrange transport.

“It does make you a little bit suspicious that they are plotting a permanent closure and seeing if the surgery can cope over a three-month trial period."

Warminster councillor Steve Dancey said: “Everyone in the town is worried about this, not just the town council.

“It will have a knock-on effect at The Avenue Surgery as patients transfer and of course at the White Horse Health Centre.

“The town council doesn’t have much on a say on healthcare but what we can do is our best make to make the town a more attractive place to live to encourage more GPs to want to come and work here.”

To sign the petition visit https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/save-smallbrook-surgery-warminster-from-permanent-closure?bucket