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'Grave concerns' over general practice future as eight in ten practices at risk

GP leaders say they have ‘grave concerns’ about the future of general practice after a survey revealed just how much strain GPs are under.

An ‘overwhelming’ 82.1% of respondents to a Welsh GPC survey said they are worried about the sustainability of their practice, with workload pressures and recruitment difficulties cited as the main problems.

In all, 61.4% of GPs responding to the survey said they do not have a good worklife balance, with 58.1% saying it has got worse in the past year.

Almost three-quarters said increasingly large workloads had already had a negative impact on the health of their staff.

And 81.4% said workload pressures had reduced the quality of service they can deliver to patients.

GP shortages look set to get worse as more than a quarter of respondents said they were considering making a career change and 13.8% said they were looking to move abroad in the next 12 months.

In response to the ‘unprecedented’ pressure facing general practice, the Welsh GPC has published its Urgent Prescription for General Practice in Wales calling on the Government to address the crisis.

Specifically it wants to see general practice receive 12% of the NHS budget by 2020 – a significant increase on the 7.6% spent currently.

Other recommendations include ensuring GPs have the capacity to see patients by increasing practice funding, providing more support staff and removing bureaucracy.

Welsh GPC chair Dr Charlotte Jones said the Welsh Government must take action.

‘I have grave concerns for the future of general practice if the significant and worsening challenges are not urgently and meaningfully addressed at a national level.

‘There is a significant gap between the demand placed upon general practice and its capacity.’

She added: ‘The profession is forced to try and cope with inadequate resources, an unsustainable workload and a workforce under considerable strain, across the whole of Wales.’

Dr Jones said the survey results make clear that for many GPs, their career is having a very negative and personal impact on their quality of life and there is genuine concern about the ability of general practice to deliver a high-quality service as things stand.

‘At a very simple level, we know that there are not enough GPs in Wales and for those who do work here, workload pressure and working conditions are resulting in them reducing their working hours or considering a career change.

‘We have listened to what GPs in Wales have told us. Now the Welsh Government must listen and act to save general practice.’

The GPC published the Urgent Prescription for General Practice in England earlier this year, and recently called off plans to seek GP views on a mass protest against underfunding because NHS England agreed to discuss the demands it contained.

BMA Wales' urgent prescription for general practice

  • A national standard for a maximum number of patients that GPs can reasonably deal with during a working day

  • Train a greater number of doctors in Wales as well as offering an enhanced retainer scheme and incentives to encourage retired GPs to stay working
  • Review the QOF with a view to remove parts and simplify
  • Remove all unnecessary bureaucracy and duplication
  • Support rising indemnity costs and practice expenses
  • Make better use of cluster funding to reduce pressures
  • Introduce a wider skill mix and add a pharmacist full-time to all practices
  • Promote ‘federations’ to share costs and resources and as a way of bidding for enhanced services contracts
  • Ensure practices are not prevented from closing their lists 

  • Provide the resources to train a wider primary healthcare team

 Source: BMA

Readers' comments (9)

  • We need to be planning for the health service after the collapse of primary care . The demise of general practice is inevitable now . This is because those leaving ( in droves ) cannot be replaced . There is no one left to train anyone willing to take on the job. This government wants rid of a state funded service and the best way to pull it down is to undermine the foundations . There is an orchestrated assault on primary care . Even our receptionists are getting a kicking now . No help can be expected from the establishment because the quicker things fail the better for them . Any direct action from us will allow them to blame us . Time to take to life boats and save what you can . This ship is going down .

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  • BMA's prescription is simply handing out more buckets instead of plugging the leaks .

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  • The government is doing it intentionally.

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  • Grave concerns is about right . Jeremy Hunt is the leading pallbearer.

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  • Government cba. They want to see it fail.

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  • Whether it is neglect , incompetence or malign intent does not really matter now. General Practice is fucked . Those too slow to get out from under will be swept away by bankruptcy orders . We need a practical escape plan . The BMA could be helpful in providing some guidelines. Hopefully some advice that doesn't involve building a glider in the attic.

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  • "Never been a better time to be a GP"-what a joke!

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  • BMA will be too scared to come up with exit plans as they know they will be blamed for the collapse of the NHS so they will watch from the sidelines. it's a game of last man standing now. pity the partners who are trapped in their contracts.

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  • Comments about Jeremy Hunt and the government doing it intentionally.....

    The NHS in Wales is run by the LABOUR welsh government is it not? Who have cut NHS funding in recent years, have they not?

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