A GP surgery serving large areas of the Blackdown Hills is reducing its opening hours after the discovery of a build up of radioactive gas.

The Blackdown Practice has seven doctors working put of three village surgeries in Hemyock, Churchinford, and Dunkeswell. 

Now, it has discovered ‘higher than acceptable levels’ of radon gas during a routine check of its practice in Fairfield Green, Churchinford.

Radon is a naturally occurring odourless, invisible, tasteless gas emitted from subterranean rock formations across most of the UK and is only detected by testing for it.

High levels of radon can cause lung cancer, particularly for smokers and ex-smokers, because it produces tiny radioactive particles in the air which people breathe. 

Most properties in the UK are affected by it and problems only arise when the gas starts to collect inside a building.

A recent health and safety audit of the practice’s Churchinford premises revealed radon levels were higher than acceptable in some parts of the building.

A spokesperson for the practice said there was no risk to patients who were only in the building for a short time, but there was a potential issue for staff who were on duty on duty all day.

The Churchinford surgery usually opens all day on Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, and mornings only on Wednesday and Friday.

But from January 8 it will close on Monday and Thursday afternoons while measures are taken to protect staff, with patients who had appointments at those times instead being seen in Hemyock.

The spokesperson said: “We have sought expert opinion and are advised that until we can carry out mitigation repairs to the building, we should reduce our staff working hours.

“We are fortunate to have three surgery sites, and this means we can move staff around to minimise the disruption to our service.

“However, we will have to close Churchinford surgery on a Monday and Thursday afternoon as we are unable to cover these two afternoons within legally permitted working hours.

“We will reopen as soon as possible following completion of necessary building repairs.

“As currently, when we are closed in the afternoons we will work with patients to ensure we minimise disruption to medicine collections.”

The surgery has asked patients to continue collecting their medications from their usual surgery as much as possible while the issue is resolved.

The Blackdown Practice is part of the Culm Valley Primary Care Network, which works alongside staff, patients, carers, families, and the public to provide better healthcare.

It was recently recognised as an Armed Forces veteran-friendly accredited GP practice supporting the health commitments of the Armed Forces Covenant.