A GP practice serving Ivybridge and Wotter is hailing "a bright future" for patients after it announced a merger that will see it looking after 60,000 patients.

Beacon Medical Group and Ocean Health, two of the largest practices in the south west, announced the merger last week.

The doctors running the two partnerships say they are convinced that working at a larger scale will offer real benefits for patients. This size of GP practice is new to the NHS.

BMG managing partner Dr Jonathan Cope said: “We’ve really noticed a big difference in what we are able to offer to patients as we have grown, particularly that our average waiting time for a GP appointment has fallen from 14 days to 8 days.

"We have many new services, new clinicians and are helping to support people locally without having difficult trips to hospital. We believe in practices serving local communities, and scale gives us the opportunity to both improve core GP services and develop services that can only be run for larger numbers.”

Both practices say they acknowledge primary care is under real pressure from the dual issues of increasing demand and financial constraints, but believe the merger is the best way to offer the kind of service patients expect and need.

Dr Cope, who recently won GP of the Year from doctors’ magazine Pulse for his innovative work with Beacon continued: “It can be really tough at times and the job is more pressured than it used to be, but if we want to keep providing local GP services and to have enough doctors, nurses and other clinicians here to provide the care required, then we have to be innovative.

"We are delighted that over the last couple of weeks we have recruited four new GPs – a level we have never managed before, and this will enable us to improve access across the whole of the new practice.”

Having made the decision the two partnerships are wasting no time in putting their plans into action, hoping to have combined by July 1 this year. Despite the short timescale they say more detailed work needs to be carried out, a key part of which is the involvement of patients.

The practices have been supported with merger discussions by both NHS England and Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Group.

Julia Cory, head of primary care at NHS England said: “It can be difficult for many practices at the moment with real challenges about workload and recruitment, so it is hugely encouraging that we are able to look at a local model of how to create successful general practices for the future. We wish them every success.”

The new, larger practice will be able to work more effectively with big organisations like Derriford Hospital or Plymouth City Council, according to bosses at the two partnerships. They also say one of the key aims is to improve the recruitment of GPs in areas of Plymouth that have traditionally struggled to attract applicants.

The new practice will cover areas including Plympton, Chaddlewood, St Budeaux, Mannamead and Efford, as well as Ivybridge and Wotter.