A GP surgery has closed its books to new patients because of a shortage of doctors.

St Lawrence Medical Practice in Bocking End, Braintree, has taken the unusual step after being hit by a staffing crisis.

The practice now has just four GPs to care for its 15,888 patients after failing to recruit enough doctors when others left or retired.

A spokesman for the practice said: “Due to unforeseen circumstances it has been necessary for St Lawrence Medical Practice to temporarily close our list to new patients.

“This means that we cannot take any new patients, other than immediate family members of existing registered patients.

“This action will not impact on existing patients, who can continue to access services as usual.”