£10m Welsh primary care pledge dwarfed by years of cuts

A Welsh government pledge to invest £10m into general practice will not plug the gap caused by recent sharp reductions in the share of NHS funding spent on primary care, GP leaders say.

Dr David Bailey: extra funding dwarfed by cuts (Photo: Ray Farley)

The 'Primary Care Plan for Wales', launched on Thursday, will see £10m pumped into primary care in Wales as part of a four-year drive to provide more care in the community.

But GP leaders have warned that the £10m fund will not come close to plugging gaps in funding caused by a 20% drop in the proportion of Welsh NHS funding targeted at primary care since 2007.

The four-year plan promises to create a gradual ‘transfer of resources from hospitals to the community’.

The plan aims to see a wider range of health professionals working together in ‘integrated health and social care teams’ to provide easily accessible, local care and support patients in improving self-care.

It pledges to make better use of modern technology to improve access to services, increasing access to care in the Welsh language and delivering personalised care ‘proportionate to need’ to reduce the effects of poverty.

Little investment in general practice

GPC Wales deputy chairman Dr David Bailey warned that piling extra workload onto general practice had to be accompanied with increased resources. A £3.5m investment this autumn, that the Welsh government says aims to tackle 'heart disease risk in deprived communities, training an expanded primary care workforce and delivering more eye care closer to home', has had little impact on primary care, warned Dr Bailey.

‘Little of the £3.5m this year went to general practice despite the recruitment crisis and a 20% drop in real incomes, with spiralling workload,' he said. The percentage of the total Welsh NHS budget invested in general practice since 2007 has also fallen around 20%, Dr Bailey said. He pointed out that £10m over four years was a small addition to the annual £470m GMS budget for Wales.

‘The headline aims of the plans are all reasonable,' he said. 'We can handle a transfer of workload from secondary care, but only if the resources transfer simultaneously – or better still in advance to pump prime. We certainly can't absorb more work on the promise of a jam tomorrow transfer of secondary care resource at some future time.’

Deputy health minister for the Welsh government Vaughan Gething said the plan would secure and improve services to ensure primary care became ‘the engine room of the Welsh NHS’.

He said: ‘Our aim is to improve access to and the quality of primary care, enabling more people to be treated and cared for closer to their homes; helping people to look after themselves and ultimately avoiding inappropriate and unnecessary hospital admissions wherever and whenever possible.’

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