Small English Town Gets Musical in Search for New Doctor

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Green rolling hills surround the sleepy Cornish village of Lostwithiel, a quaint town of just 5,000 people in southwest England with two bustling pubs, a small church, and even its own castle.

But tranquil Lostwithiel has not been shielded from the myriad crises afflicting Britain’s National Health Service. With the village’s much-loved primary care doctor set to retire next month amid a nationwide shortage of physicians, increasingly desperate residents have taken it upon themselves to help find his replacement.

Their headhunting tactic? A music video.

“You can negotiate your terms / if you’ll keep us free from germs,” sing the village’s residents in the song released on Valentine’s Day, which is set loosely to the tune of Nina Simone’s “Ain’t Got No, I Got Life.” Hundreds of locals pitched in for the effort, including schoolchildren, firefighters and even the local priest, belting out punchy lyrics like: “We’ve folks with asthma and young new mothers / We’ve limping fathers and snot-filled others.”

The video was the brainchild of Dr. Justin Hendriksz, soon to be the last remaining general practitioner in the village, after repeated attempts to find a replacement for his retiring colleague failed.

“We put adverts in the usual places, we didn’t even get one reply, not one inquiry,” said Dr. Hendriksz.  “But I thought if we could show how interlinked we are with the community, then hopefully it could inspire other like-minded doctors.”

Emma Mansfield, a village resident who works for the art-led community group that produced the video, said there would be “serious challenges” if they failed to find a replacement doctor.

“The surgery will do the utmost to keep things going, but it will have a massive effect on the community,” Ms. Mansfield said.

Symptomatic of the breakdown in Britain’s revered National Health Service, the country’s primary care sector is currently staring down a “mass exodus,” with polling indicating that almost 19,000 doctors could quit over the next five years, according to the Royal College of General Practitioners, citing “alarming” threats to patient care caused by staffing shortages.

“We’re all very aware of the alarming number of G.P.s leaving the sector, so we know we’re not the only practice to be finding it such a challenge to find the right incoming doctors,” said Dr. Hendriksz.

Hiring challenges aside, rural villages like Lostwithiel have also seen the already slow response times for ambulances prolonged even further, with residents now sometimes waiting for six to eight hours, according to Dr. Hendriksz.

Still, the villagers are clinging to hope.

“We don’t want to sit and be victims,” Ms. Mansfield said. “There is a genuine sense of community here, enough to step up to — and step over — the plate. It’s exactly what we want to find with a doctor.”

“We are saying: ‘Hey, we’re here to love and embrace you,’” she said.

For Dr. Hendriksz, who is originally from South Africa, it is a job in paradise.

Drawn to the area on vacation more than 20 years ago for its surfing and fishing, he decided to take what at first was a six-week fill-in post at the award-winning practice, and never looked back.

“Of course I’m biased, but there really is nowhere better to be a G.P., and myself and my outgoing team have always felt beyond valued and appreciated in this very special community,” he said in a statement. “I hope the campaign pop song and video reaches the right people to come and find their ultimate job and home right here in Lostwithiel.”


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