A North Devon GP has announced his retirement from two rural surgeries.

Dr Francis Fernandez has decided to retire from Hatherleigh Medical Centre and Beech House surgery in Shebbear.

Last week, the Gazette reported the practice had been rated as ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission after a series of failings over keeping the service safe and well-led.

Despite the overall rating, the commission found patients were treated with compassion, dignity and respect, and clinical staff had been trained to provide effective care and treatment.

The two buildings will continue to be available to patients after Dr Fernandez steps down on August 2.

NHS England, which commissions GP care, will find another provider to take on the two surgeries, and is inviting providers to submit proposals with the aim of ‘retaining current ways of working’.

Amanda Fisk, director of assurance and delivery at NHS England, said: “Our priority is to make the transition as smooth as possible for patients, so we’re very pleased that both surgeries will continue to be available.

“Our aim is to find the provider who will best meet people’s across the local communities, building on the good services that are already in place.”

Dr Fernandez, who holds the contract with practice nurse and manager Maria Guerra-Jimenez, said: “It’s never easy giving up something you love, but now feels the right time to retire from the practice and hand over to someone else.

“We have both enjoyed immensely living and working here, serving a rural community where patients have become friends.

“We’ll be doing all we can to make sure the transfer of care is as smooth as possible, and that the new providers know exactly how patients like things done.

“We’ll both be around through spring and summer – our doors remain open and we remain as committed as ever to keeping our patients well.”

Letters are being sent to all 3,900 patients to explain the position, stressing that it is business as usual at both surgeries