An NHS body has defended its decision to publicise the closure of a Weymouth doctor’s surgery online before contacting patients directly.

The Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) announced that Abbotsbury Road Surgery will permanently close in March 2019 in a shock statement last Thursday (4).

The statement was published on the CCG website and circulated to local news media, sparking frustration from residents who had found out the news online. After the Echo published the story online, one Facebook user said: “What a way to find out something so serious.”,while another said: “Thanks for letting us know via social media.”

Now Healthwatch Dorset, an independent watchdog for health services in the county, has hit out at the way patients were informed of the news.

Martyn Webster, manager of Healthwatch Dorset, said: "This news came as a shock to patients of the practice and it's really not right that they had to find out through the media.

“We would expect the NHS to let patients know what's happening first.

“What's important now is that, without any more delay, patients get some direct communication from the NHS about exactly what's happening, and that from then on they are fully informed and involved in the decisions about what GP services are going to be available to them in the future."

The surgery has been forced to close after bosses struggled to recruit new GPs to replace retiring partners.

The CCG said patients would be informed first under normal circumstances, but said that releasing a statement online was the “best possible option” to get the information out quickly.

A Dorset CCG spokesman said: "Shortly after we received notice of the practice handing back its contract, the practice began to receive calls from concerned patients asking for more details. We were also aware of the possibility of misinformation circulating on social media.

"Aware that we were heading towards the weekend, we therefore felt it was important to get the correct information out to as many people as possible. The release stated that patients should remain with the practice, and that they would be contacted in due course with more detailed information - which we are hoping to get out to patients in the next seven to ten days.

"While this is certainly not our preferred method of contacting patients, we felt in this case it was the best available option for getting the correct information out as quickly as possible to try and limit the spread of rumour over the weekend.

"We apologise for any concern or distress this may have caused patients and the wider public."

Anyone with concerns is encouraged to contact