North Wales Assembly Member Mark Isherwood has called on the Welsh Government to take urgent action to address the high patient/GP ratio in North Wales and the subsequent impact on out-of-hours services.
At a British Medical Association Cymru Wales briefing session in the Assembly in June, which was attended by a Mold GP, the chair of the North Wales Local Medical Committee stated that “general practice in North Wales is ‘in crisis’, that several practices have been unable to fill vacancies and many GPs are seriously considering retirement because of the current expanding workload”.
Raising the matter in this week’s Questions to the Health Minister, Mr Isherwood said: “While the UK Government has launched a pilot scheme for GP Surgeries in nine areas to bid for money to open from 8am to 8pm, seven days a week, Members who attended the June 3rd briefing event in the Assembly by British Medical Association Cymru Wales and the North Wales Local Medical Committee will have heard that patient/GP ratios in north Wales have risen to 3,800:1 - double the safety rate normally recognised by the Welsh Government and health providers. How will this impact on out-of-hours services in Anglesey and more widely across the region? What urgent action is being taken to prioritise remedies to address this?”
The Deputy Minister for Health, Vaughan Gething AM, replied: “It is, of course, entirely appropriate that that nurse-practitioner service has the support of other medical practitioners as appropriate, and that may be for the GP service that should be available to them at all points in the out-of-hours service. So, I would not accept that the figures that he has quoted show that this is a service that is not being run in an appropriate way that puts the needs of the patient, and the needs of a patient in an out-of-hours-context service, first, and I am quite satisfied that this is an appropriate use of resource.”
Mr Isherwood added: “The Royal College of General Practitioners Wales ‘Put Patients First: Back General Practice’ campaign reports that real terms spending on GP practices in Wales has dropped by more than £27 million over three years and highlighted a major concern in primary care, with the average age of GPs in North Wales now over 50, described as “a ticking time bomb”.
The British Medical Association (BMA) Cymru Wales’ document ‘GP Practice—A Prescription for a Healthy Future’, launched in the Assembly last month, included ‘Successive (Welsh Government) Ministers have made commitments to involve GPs in the running of NHS Wales, to expand primary care, to invest in the development of extended primary care teams and to locate those teams in modern, purpose-built centres.
"However, despite the good intentions, none of this happened in the way that was intended."