Neyland's St Clement's Surgery will close in September, it has been confirmed.

Hywel Dda University Health Board has approved the application by Argyle Medical Group to close the surgery, from September 1 2018 "owing to significant workforce pressures associated with the recruitment and retention of GPs."

Since January the Health Board has been seeking the views of patients, neighbouring practices, the Community Health Council and others on the proposed closure.

It held a well-attended drop-in event in Neyland in which patients spoke about the impact of any closure, including concerns about travel and transport and access to GP appointments.

A previous public meeting had attracted hundreds of patients.

The Health Board is now writing to all affected patients this week to explain the decision and to keep them updated on further developments.

Further discussions have taken place with Argyle Medical Group, which despite trying to recruit GPs for their vacancies is expected to lose another GP in June.

As a consequence the Practice’s overall sustainability position is concerning.

A health board press release said: "In its decision making over the future of St Clement’s Surgery, the Health Board has tried to balance the needs of patients in the Neyland area with the risks to the struggling Practice and the whole Practice list.

"At the same time, detailed discussions have been underway with stakeholders to examine if these important services can be delivered in Neyland in other ways.

"These discussions are continuing and have been positive but no firm proposal has been agreed to date."

Elaine Lorton, Assistant Director of Primary Care, said: “As a Health Board we recognise that this decision will be very disappointing for many patients.

"Unfortunately however, the scale of the pressures on Argyle Medical Group is increasing and action needs to be taken to ensure the Practice remains stable for the future for the whole of the population.

“Until such a time as a plan for the alternative provision of services for patients in Neyland is successfully developed, the Health Board views the closure of St. Clement’s Surgery as a necessary move.”

A number of conditions have been put in place to help protect services for patients who will be affected. These conditions include that the Surgery remain open until 1st September and that Argyle Medical Group work to maintain access to their services for patients in the area.

Patients will continue to be registered with Argyle Medical Group after the closure date of 1st September and the Practice will continue to provide services such as home visits where appropriate.

Patients who need to see a GP or nurse for a face-to-face consultation will need to travel to Argyle Surgery in Pembroke Dock.

Mrs Lorton added: “The Health Board will keep patients informed of developments and will provide opportunities for the public to engage. Argyle Medical Group will also be undertaking a major review of their arrangements for accessing appointments at Argyle Surgery and St. Oswald’s Surgery, and this will include telephone consulting services for those patients who do not clinically need to have a face to face appointment. The Practice will work on arrangements to prevent patients having to make multiple journeys to make appointments.

“The Health Board and Argyle Medical Group will continue to work positively and proactively with the community to identify and support opportunities to deliver services via a network with neighbouring practices and the local Community Pharmacy.”

Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb, said: “This a senseless and damaging decision. For years doctors have been warning Welsh Government about growing recruitment problems across Wales and the need for a proper strategy to fill vacancies. And Welsh Government have done nothing.

“St Clements Surgery is a busy, well used and popular surgery. There is no reason for it to shut other than the incompetence of the Welsh Government in dealing with recruitment pressures in rural areas.”

Responding to the news, local Assembly Member Paul Davies said: “I’m deeply disappointed that Hywel Dda University Health Board has approved the application to close St Clement’s surgery in Neyland. This will have a detrimental impact on patients at the surgery, who will now have to travel further for treatment and incur a financial cost due to travelling over the Cleddau Bridge.”

He added: “It’s clear that both the local health board and the Welsh Government have failed to attract doctors to the local area and now patients are paying the price. In light of this closure, I will continue to raise this matter with the Welsh Government at every opportunity.”