BMA Cymru Wales has urged the National Assembly to ensure that NHS Wales is adequately resourced to cope with additional “winter pressures”.
Speaking to the Health, Sport and Social Care Committee, Dr Philip Banfield, Chair of BMA Cymru Wales’ Welsh Council, said the surge in illness during winter will have a “major impact on primary care.”
As the elderly require more care during the winter, support from community services becomes increasingly difficult to arrange, leaving GPs with “no option but to seek admission” for their patients.
He said: “The elderly frail often lose their support networks and their ability to stay at home in the cold and wet of winter.
“GP clusters can engage with the third sector and community services to help people stay at home, but often an inability to get a specialist review to keep a patient at home leaves a GP with no option but to seek admission.
However, he added that many GPs report being told that “there are 20 or 30 other emergencies waiting for a hospital be” throughout the year.
The committee is conducting an inquiry into how prepared NHS Wales is for the surge in demand expected this winter.
Banfield told the committee that the NHS in Wales is “underprepared for fluctuations in demand that are occurring throughout the year, not just in winter”.
“The reality is that we have closed too many beds to get patients in and out of the system in a timely manner. Unfortunately this has corresponded with a significant fall in community and nursing care beds,” he said.
He continued: “The short-termism associated with the need to make efficiency savings in NHS Wales has prevented longer term, better value savings being made.
“This in turn has hindered progress in tackling the underlying structural issues which allow winter pressures to create cripplingly serious problems.
“A permanent funding solution across the entire NHS needs to be implemented and investment must keep up with demand in every part of the system.”