A PROPOSAL to merge Tavyside Health Centre in Tavistock with a doctors’ surgery in Lifton to ensure the latter’s future has been endorsed by NHS England.

The proposal to merge, which was first heard by villagers and councillors at a meeting of Lifton Parish Council in the beginning of March, is likely to see the practices amalgamate from July 1, 2016.

Lifton parish councillor and GP Dr Michael Sparrow, who has run Lifton Surgery for 28 years, said that the merger was the only safe way of securing the surgery’s long term future.

Dr Sparrow was supposed to retire in November but is still working and his colleague, Dr Jonathan Carty, is also due to leave in June.

Patients at both Lifton Surgery and Tavyside Health Centre are not expected to see any changes to the opening times or services.

Dene Medland, Tavyside Health Centre manager, said: ‘The merger has still not been signed off officially. We still need to obtain a couple of signatures but if everything goes ahead we will be merging from July 1.

‘The primary reason for the merger is to safeguard Lifton Surgery. We still have to decide if it will be a GP from Tavyside who covers Lifton when Dr Carty leaves. We have had no conformation as to whether it will be one GP moving to Lifton or if they will work on a rotation.’

‘We are very happy about the way things are going, this is a good move forward — it is a very positive thing for everyone. Our patients will not lose out at all this will enhance the services we are able to offer.’

Julia Cory, head of primary care for NHS England in the South West said: ‘The current providers of GP services at Tavyside Health Centre and Lifton Surgery submitted an application to merger and form a new provider from July 1, 2016. The application has been considered and endorsed by NHS England as the best way forward.

‘There will be no change to the opening times at either of the two sites and they will continue to provide a full range of services to patients, including dispensing medicines for those patients eligible for the service.

‘This is the best possible outcome for patients of the surgeries. This merger secures a sustainable future for the practice and will ensure patients continue to receive high-quality care, with minimal disruption.’

Lifton Surgery was established in the early 1950s by Drs Charles and Mary Sutherland, who continued to work together until the early 1980s.

Following Dr Charles Sutherland’s death, Dr Mary Sutherland continued to run the practice single-handily until Dr Sparrow joined in 1988. She retired three years later.

Dr Robert Gardner joined the Lifton in 1992 and departed in September 2002. Dr Jonathan Carty joined the practice in April 2006 – Dr Sparrow and Dr Carty have been in partnership since then.

The surgery has its own dispensary, which means it can dispense medication to all patients who are registered with it and live more than one mile from a pharmacy.

Dr Sparrow said: ‘Dr Carty is leaving in June and I have been intending to retire for some time. I plan to leave next year so eventually we will both have to be replaced. It is a shame as young doctors don’t have enough experience to take on a practice like this.

‘I always thought when I retired I would hand over to Dr Carty and if I wasn’t retiring I would replace him with someone young and train them but it is a daunting prospect for someone young.

‘Tavyside has many well experienced doctors so not much will change it will just be like having a slightly bigger practice that is run from Tavistock.

‘I am not too sure what will happen when Dr Carty leaves yet as we are in the early stages of discussion but I imagine a Tavistock doctor will come over and undertake sessions to begin with and then they can decide whether they are happy to stay. I am not 100 percent sure which doctor it will be yet.’

He added: ‘I will be staying to January at least — I have promised to stay until then as it will take at least six months for everything to settle down and if the person that comes over from Tavistock likes it in Lifton, they will become head of the practice. If that is the case they will need to find someone else to work in Tavistock.’