GPC Wales opposes move to NHS 111 out-of-hours system

GP leaders have hit out at plans to adopt an NHS 111-style system for unscheduled care in Wales and demanded more funding for existing out-of-hours services.

Unscheduled care: GPC Wales opposes plan for system similar to England's NHS 111
Unscheduled care: GPC Wales opposes plan for system similar to England's NHS 111

GPC Wales chairman Dr David Bailey said the committee had submitted evidence to a consultation on the first draft of a Welsh government review of out-of-hours services, which is being undertaken by Cwm Taf Health Board chairman and Taff Vale GP Dr Chris Jones.

Dr Bailey said the GPC opposed proposals in the review for a new single point of access for all unscheduled care in Wales.

Dr Bailey said the idea was similar to NHS 111, the non-emergency telephone number which is currently being rolled out across England.

He said there were suggestions that Wales should adopt a single point of access system for unscheduled care, with call handlers able to book in-hours GP appointments for patients who need them. 'We’ve said that won’t happen under any circumstances,’ Dr Bailey said.

He said the suggestions were not viable. 'It’s the idea that you manage all unscheduled care from a couple of call centres. We think the disadvantages of doing this would more than outweigh it in economies of scale. You would lose the local knowledge of the call handlers.’

Dr Bailey said the GPC argued that the best way to improve out-of-hours was with greater investment and increased recruitment.

‘You need to find ways to encourage people into out-of-hours. You need to reduce the bureaucracy and cut out the middle man and maybe introduce a pay rise. You also need to address the indemnity issues,’ he said.

‘There is a recruitment crisis. Out-of-hours if the absolute best example of somewhere you should invest to save.You need to get more people involved. The savings you make in less emergency admissions will more than outweigh the investment.’

‘If you invest a little bit more it will pay for itself. Investment in out-of-hours is key – it saves money in acute admissions in the long term,’ Dr Bailey said.

Dr Bailey recently criticised the Welsh government for demoralising GPs by making repeated calls for practices to offer extended hours.

He said that ‘repeated government announcements on 8am to 8pm opening hours and Saturday access have damaged GP morale’.

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