LMC representatives meeting for their annual conference in Newport at the weekend said the waiting times were ‘totally unacceptable’, and called on the Welsh government to admit the problem was caused by ‘years of poor management, unrealistic targets and underfunding.
The conference, which was addressed by health minister Professor Mark Drakeford, voted for a motion deploring underfunding which had lead to constant pressure on beds, reduced outpatient capacity, reduced GP out-of-hours capacity, and GP workload saturation.
Waiting targets were being breached, said GPC Wales chairwoman Dr Charlotte Jones. ‘There are distinct differences between us and the rest of the UK. Patients deserve timely access to specialist help.’
While NHS spending in Wales had been protected, said Dr Jones, funding for GP out-of-hours services had remained static, and there had been no new investment in primary care in real terms.
NHS Wales could not afford to provide ‘all things to all people’, and it was up to politicians and Health Boards to tell patients this, not GPs.
Proposing the motion to conference, Bro Taf LMC’s Dr Stephen Davis said last November there were more than 13,000 people waiting longer than nine months for treatment; double the number of six months previously. Three hundred out of every 1,000 patients had to wait longer than eight weeks for investigations, he said, compared with just one in 1,000 in England.
I’m fed up’, said Dr Amir Ghanghro, from Bro Taf, ‘with telling my patients you have to see a specialist, but you will have to wait at least 26 weeks to see them.’ The 62 days target waiting time for cancer was ‘appalling’.
Time was being wasted by hospitals sending patients back to the GP for expediting letters, added Dr Om Aggarwal, also from Bro Taf LMC.
In a separate motion, the conference voted to insist the government publicly recognises the same crisis on demand exists in primary care as in secondary.
LMC representatives voted to deplore that primary care’s share of NHS funding was shrinking.
Dr Debbie Waters from Gwent LMC said there had been a £250m real terms disinvestment in general practice since 2005 and support services were in decline, while GPs continued to provide good access and good value for money.