Auditor calls for increased GP access

GPC Wales has slammed a recommendation by the Wales Audit Office that expanding general practice access could relieve pressure on unscheduled care services.

Dr David Bailey: auditor's comments on GPs 'petty'
Dr David Bailey: auditor's comments on GPs 'petty'

A report by the auditor general for Wales, Huw Vaughan Thomas, said pressure on A&E and other urgent care services was increasing, although recent deterioration in performance had begun to improve.

Mr Thomas made a series of recommendations to ministers, including increasing access to urgent, same-day GP appointments during core working hours.

GPC Wales deputy chairman Dr David Bailey said while the report was generally reasonable, it was ‘nonsense’ to suggest that lack of GP appointments was a cause of pressure on other parts of the service.

GP appointments in Wales were increasing by 4%, which was twice the rate that A&E consultations were going up, he said.

‘GPs in Wales are trying very hard and providing hugely more unscheduled care appointments that the secondary care sector, and it seem facile and pointless to continue to make these points.'

However, Dr Bailey supported recommendations on NHS 111, due to launch in Wales in 2015. The auditor called on ministers to learn lessons from England, a set out a ‘detailed timeline and clear milestones’ for implementation.

But, he added, that ‘silly little comments’ about GP access, for which he was aware of no evidence, would ‘undermine’ the auditor general’s credibility.

Recommendations in the report include:

  • Continued rigorous monitoring by the Welsh government and NHS bodies to assess the impact of service pressures on quality and safety of unscheduled care services.
  • Obtaining more comprehensive feedback from patients on the unscheduled care experiences.
  • Improving the datasets which are used to understand and manage demand for unscheduled care.
  • Improving communication with the public to help them select the right unscheduled care services for their needs.
  • Ensuring staff in emergency departments have the correct skill base to meet the needs of the growing number of elderly people attending A&E.

Mr Thomas said: 'While [the] report shows that the NHS in Wales is prioritising unscheduled care services, factors such as rising demand and workforce challenges have clearly put services under considerable pressure, and have contributed to continued difficulties in meeting key performance targets.

'The report makes several clear recommendations for all the agencies providing unscheduled care in Wales, which I hope will help the NHS build on the improvements suggested by the most recently available data.'

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