THE future of healthcare in North Tawton is looking brighter, after a local healthcare provider has expressed an interest in running the town's medical practice.

The contract for the provision of services at North Tawton Medical Practice is currently held by the Wallingbrook Health Group, which also runs practices in Okehampton, Winkleigh, and Chulmleigh.

The group has announced that it will be terminating its contract on March 31, 2015 saying the decision is due to insufficient funding from the NHS to run a safe and efficient practice.

Services at the surgery in Devonshire House will continue as they are up until March 31.

After this date, NHS England will be legally responsible for ensuring continuity and provision of medical services to patients previously registered under the terminated contract.

In a statement to the North Tawton community, Caroline Stead, contract manager for NHS England for Devon, Cornwall and Isles of Scilly, said: 'We are now in discussion with Bow Medical Practice, with a view to their providing a service at North Tawton under a one-year contract.

'Encouragingly, the landlord of Devonshire House has also indicated that he would be willing to continue to make the premises available as a GP surgery.

'However, before taking any decision, we are keen to talk with patients, with the wider public and with councillors on overview and scrutiny committees, whose role is to look at developments in the NHS on behalf of the communities they serve.

'As well as discussing the prospective handover to Bow Surgery, we need to look at all possible options for the longer term from 2016.'

In the wake of the uncertainty over the medical practice's future, its patients' participation group has combined with some members of North Tawton Town Council to form the North Tawton Engagement Group. Its purpose is to take account of local opinion and pass it on to NHS England to ensure it hears the concerns of the community.

The group held a public meeting on November 28 to find out the views of the community so that they can be shared with contracts manager at NHS England Caroline Stead.

The group's Bill Dean said: 'The future is looking better now, things have moved on quickly. It does look as though there is now a provider who will take on the centre in the short term with Bow Medical Centre having declared an interest in running the practice.

'The critical thing for North Tawton as a community is to secure a long term provider, but this is the way the NHS does things.

'It may be that if things go well, Bow will take it on full time, but I cannot speak for them in that respect.

'The one concern I have is that if Wallingbrook Health Group, who have run the centre until now, couldn't make money and couldn't make a go of the practice, how will Bow Medical Centre? But it is good they are considering it.

'If the NHS is strapped, it may also be a case of reviewing exactly what services the surgery offers in future.

'But the key thing is that a surgery will still remain in North Tawton, which is a very big thing.

'So many patients are elderly without transport so it is important to keep it here.'

The engagement group is collating the views of the community to pass on to Mrs Stead and ensure that their priorities and concerns are considered.

The group's work will lead to a public meeting on January 15 with Caroline Stead to discuss the practice's long term future.

If you would like to get involved with the North Tawton Engagement Group, you can contact Bill Dean by email at [email protected]">[email protected]