Welsh general practice at risk of collapse, GP leaders warn

Funding for daytime general practice and out-of-hours services must rise over the next three years to prevent the collapse of general practice in Wales, the Welsh GPC has warned.

Dr Charlotte Jones: warning over GP services in Wales (Photo: Ray Farley)

In a strategy document entitled A prescription for a healthy future, GPC Wales says general practice is going through ‘one of the most challenging periods since the inception of the NHS’.

The strategy outlines the major issues facing general practice in Wales and identifies recommendations ‘to chart a way forward’ for the service.

The share of the NHS budget allocated to Welsh GMS contract funding has fallen from 10.3% in 2007 to a low of 7.9%, ‘despite strong evidence to support further investment’, according to the document.

GPC Wales calls for the proportion of spending directed to GPs to be restored to 10.3% over the next three financial years, by 2018/19.

Disinvestment in out-of-hours services

It argues that ‘disinvestment in out-of-hours services’ has had serious knock-on consequences for unscheduled care in Wales, and that the Welsh government’s policy to provide all patients with access to primary care within 24 hours is ‘no longer deliverable’.

To solve this, it calls for out-of-hours services to receive a ‘fair share of investment’ along with ‘uplifts to correct 10 years of underfunding’. This should be implemented with the 2014 Welsh budget on a phased basis over three years.

GP leaders demanded a review within the next six months to assess the condition of primary care premises in Wales, which would include ‘costs for all necessary extension, refurbishments and replacements’.

Headed for collapse

The document also contained recommendations on how to tackle the burgeoning workforce crisis, improve structuring within the government and improve links between primary, secondary and social care IT systems.

Dr Charlotte Jones, GPC Wales chairwoman, warned that Welsh general practice was currently ‘unsustainable’ and headed for collapse unless the ‘significant challenges’ were addressed.

She said: ‘GPC Wales wants to engage constructively with the Welsh government, health board executives and other key stakeholders and has offered a variety of solutions on a number of issues, all of which are carefully considered in this document.

‘It is our goal that patients continue to have access to a high quality service which is responsive to patient needs and provided equitably across Wales.’

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