Exclusive: Thousands wasted on managed practices as recruitment crisis hits

Welsh health boards are spending hundreds of thousands of pounds on directly managing practices as the GP workforce crisis is forcing partners to quit, GPonline can reveal.

Dr Bailey: More practices are reporting that they are on the brink of collapse.
Dr Bailey: More practices are reporting that they are on the brink of collapse.

Seven practices in Wales were being directly managed by health boards last year, the Freedom of Information Act investigation by GPOnline has found.

GPC Wales say the number of managed practices could double, with practices across Wales on the verge of falling over.

This comes after three GP practices in Derbyshire with recruitment and financial problems were taken over by a foundation trust.

One GP in Machynlleth, Powys, spoke to GPOnline about no longer being able to cope with an overwhelming workload and is unable to recruit, meaning the health board will have to manage his practice.

Inability to recruit

Dr David Bailey, deputy chairman of GPC Wales, told GPOnline that more practices are reporting that they are on the brink of collapse.

‘It’s relatively rare, but there are a lot of other practices that are saying: 'we’re not really sure how much longer we can go on',’ Dr Bailey said. ‘I would imagine there’s at least double the amount who are close to this position.’

Dr Bailey said that recruitment and financial difficulties in other practices across Wales had GPs ‘looking nervously over their shoulders’.

LHBs are ‘desperate to try and support practices’, he said. ‘Sometimes the only practicable solution is to manage the practice, because they know there would be a domino situation if practices were forced to provide a service to patients 10 miles away from their normal surgery.’

Wasted funds

Managed practices cost £30 per patient more to run each year, meaning the health boards were running into unnecessary costs of £690,000 last year.

At the Welsh LMCs conference in February, GPs warned that directly managed practices had ‘significantly higher costs’ and were a ‘huge financial burden’.

A spokeswoman for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board confirmed the £30 per patient figure and said it has taken on the management of another practice since the GPonline investigation began.

Cwm Taf University Health Board, which is managing one practice, said that costs for running practices varied.

‘Directly managed practices are generally a reflection of Health Boards serving vulnerable communities when independent contractor models have not proved sustainable,’ said John Palmer from Cwm Taf University Health Board.

‘Cwm Taf University Health Board supports independent contractor status. We are currently keeping our managed practice under review and if it can revert to independent status in the future we will be supportive of that happening.’

* Exclusive: Welsh recruitment crisis forces GP partner to quit practice

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