Practices struggling to cope with rising demand, Welsh GP inspectors warn

Wales' equivalent of the CQC has reported widespread concerns among GP practices about their ability to meet soaring demand for appointments.

The Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW) said every practice it inspected in 2015/16 deserved praise for treating patients with dignity, respect, compassion and kindness.

It praised the strong and effective leadership of practices, the detailed clinical notes they kept and the speed with which test results were processed, in its 2015/16 annual report of findings. It also hit out at hospitals over poor quality discharge information provided to GP practices.

A total of 27 practices were inspected over this timeframe, the first full year of HIW's GP inspection programme. The HIW is the independent regulator of healthcare providers in Wales.

GP inspection

Just one practice was issued an 'immediate assurance letter', due to a lack of safe processes in place for adult safeguarding.

But the regulator flagged fears raised by many practices during inspections about the ‘ongoing challenges of providing an appropriate level of appointments to meet patient demand’.

The HIW therefore said it had ‘concerns about how resilient and sustainable some of the practices we visited were’ given the pressures of struggling to recruit GPs, the high volume of patients and continued increased demand for the service.

It also said that only half of the practices inspected ‘encouraged or facilitated patient feedback’. Doing so would ‘show patients that practices want to listen and learn’ to improve services, it added.

GP resilience

Dr Kate Chamberlain, chief executive of HIW said: ‘It has become clear from this work that patients across Wales are satisfied with and appreciate the dignified, effective care that they receive from their GPs and GP practice staff.

‘All practices need to ensure that they have regular systems for seeking feedback from their entire patient population, including the views of those who cannot visit practices due to their needs.

‘Ensuring that systems for managing the needs of adults who are at risk or who become at risk also need to be strengthened so that patients receive the most effective care from staff trained to support them appropriately.

‘It was disappointing as part of this work to see the inconsistency in the information provided to GPs when patients are discharged from hospital. We saw instances of very poor quality and in some cases a total absence of discharge information being provided. This presents a considerable risk for patients and creates significant additional work for GPs and staff in primary care.

‘I ask all those involved in healthcare to learn from the findings in this report to remove the inconsistency and variation sometimes found in the quality of health care provision across Wales.’

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