A HARD-PRESSED GP surgery in Banbury is losing all three of its GP partners after being placed in special measures by the Care Quality Commission.

Some 16,572 people from the town and surrounding villages are registered at Horsefair Surgery, leaving just one salaried GP and three nurses in post.

Urgent efforts are being made to replace Dr Williams, Dr Alcock and Dr Dawson after they left the practice at the end of June for personal reasons.

In a letter to patients, the practice insisted it would be 'business as usual' at the surgery and healthcare services would be delivered as normal.

It stated: "We want to reassure you that healthcare services at the practice will not be affected. Horsefair Surgery is already working to recruit new partners and salaried GPs.

"It is being supported by the current doctors, staff, the patient participation group (PPG) and Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group (OCCG)."

Two executive partners from provider Integrated Medical Holdings, Dr Jones and Dr Meyer, are due to take over the practice this month.

It follows a newly-published report from watchdog the Care Quality Commission (CQC) that rated the practice overall as inadequate, following a 'requires improvement' rating last August.

Professor Steve Field, the CQC's chief inspector of general practice, said: "I am placing this service in special measures.

"The service will be kept under review and if needed could be escalated to urgent enforcement action.

"Where necessary, another inspection will be conducted within a further six months, and if there is not enough improvement we will move to close the service."

Key areas of concern included the care of patients with complex, long-term conditions and monitoring those on high-risk medicines such as lithium.

The CQC also warned that Horsefair must ensure all staff have taken necessary training related to their roles, and monitoring of patient care was inadequate.

It followed the closure of the branch surgery at Middleton Cheney last October, with registered patients transferred to the Banbury practice.

Inspectors noted: "The practice had been under pressure due to recruitment problems and losing partners. Nursing vacancies also added to the pressure to the existing team."

But they also acknowledged staff had worked hard to improve, and praised both the facilities and the 'compassion, dignity and respect' with which they treated patients.

Dr Liz Dawson, one of the three departing GPs, said: "Drs Alcock, Williams and I are very grateful for the incredible, ongoing support we have had from staff, colleagues and patients.

"We are thankful for the input we have had from Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group during a very difficult time.

"We are immensely proud of the hard work that everyone at Horsefair surgery has put in to ensure we continue to deliver safe and responsive care to our patients."

OCCG said Horsefair had faced 'significant pressure' over the past two years but was working to recruit new GPs and ensure safe and effective care.

Head of primary care Julie Dandridge said: "OCCG recognises the efforts already made to improve services at Horsefair Surgery over the past few months, and will continue to support the practice to ensure patients get safe, good quality care and to find effective and long-lasting solutions to concerns still highlighted by the CQC.

"Horsefair Surgery has a clear vision to continue to build on work done so far to support its GPs and other staff to provide high quality patient care."

The PPG is planning to hold a drop-in day in August at the practice for patients to meet with staff and discuss the changes being made.

Meanwhile a meeting on the way primary care is run in North Oxfordshire will also take place tonight from 7.15pm to 9pm at Banbury Town Hall.

People in the area are encouraged to attend and share their views on GPs' priorities in the north of the county with the North Oxfordshire Patient and Public Forum.