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Calls for rescue package as GP crisis in Wales deepens

by Julie Griffiths
30 June 2023

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BMA Cymru Wales has launched a ‘Save our Surgeries’ campaign appealing for an ‘urgent rescue package of support’ from the Welsh Government to save general practice from collapsing.

It comes amid the finding that more than 80% of GPs surveyed by BMA Cymru Wales said they fear they are unable to provide quality and safe care to patients due to their excessive workloads, diminishing workforce, and rising demands.

Other findings laying bare the extent of the crisis in general practice are contained in a report, that forms part of the BMA’s Save our Surgeries campaign, and which was presented to the Senedd this week.

It showed that there are just 2,324 GPs in Wales with only 1,445 working full-time. And the BMA’s survey of all 386 GP surgeries, which had 240 respondents, found over a quarter (26.6%) are planning to leave the profession in the near future.

The report also detailed a deficit of 664 GPs (compared with other OECD countries) and 84 surgery closures in the last decade.

There are now 18% fewer surgeries available to people with GPs taking on an unsustainable 32% more patients each, it said.

The report also went to state that Freedom of Information Requests to Health Boards across Wales found that there has been an overspend of almost £11m on practices managed by health boards this year.

The BMA has warned the Welsh Government is overspending money on health board-managed practices while eight in 10 GPs cannot provide safe care.

The report said: ‘For the 22/23 financial year, the average overspend per patient at managed practices was £53.38. This is c.33% more than the global sum figure for that financial year (£111.40 per patient).

‘The total number of managed practices has been between 23 and 29, with a cumulative overspend compared to their GMS allocation of £31.62m. Costs escalated rapidly in 2022/23, with £10.96m overspent in this year alone.’

The GPC is calling on the Welsh Government for a rescue package ‘to save the service from collapse’ (see box below).

BMA Wales GPC chair Dr Gareth Oelmann said: ‘Unless urgent action is taken to address workload, workforce and wellbeing, the service is at risk. Given the vital and all-encompassing nature of our work, this crisis should be a concern to us all.’

He added: ‘The strain has been felt up and down the country, we have heard from GPs who have been unable to recruit permanent staff for years on end, examples of extreme burnout and a rising number of surgeries having to close their doors as a result leaving thousands of patients having to be treated elsewhere.’

Demands in full

BMA Cymru Wales’ GPC is making the following urgent requests of the Welsh Government:

  1. Commit to funding general practice properly, by restoring the proportion of the NHS Wales budget spent in general practice to the historic level of 8.7% within three years, with an aspiration to increase to nearer 11% in the next five years.
  2. Invest in the workforce of general practice so a national standard setting a maximum number of patients that GPs can deal with during a working day can be put in place. This would maintain safe and high-quality service delivery. 
  3. Produce a workforce strategy to ensure that Wales trains, recruits, and retains enough GPs to move toward the OECD average number of GPs per 1000 people. 
  4. Address staff wellbeing by producing a long-term strategy to improve the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the workforce.