Evening and weekend GP appointments funded under £20m winter plan
The Welsh Government has announced an extra £20m of funding to see the NHS through the busy winter period, including for extra GP appointments.
Health secretary Vaughan Gething said £16m would be going direct to health boards to put in place their winter deliver plans.
And £4m would be for national pressure-relieving strategies including extending GP access into evenings and weekends in some areas.
The funding is focused on measures to keep people at home and will also include increases in paramedic and nurse triage capacity.
It is on top of a recently announced £5 million boost to relieve pressure on critical care units and £10 million announced for social services.
NHS England unveiled a £145 million winter bailout for hospital trusts in September, prompting BMA leaders to call for GP practices to receive equivalent funding.
‘Last winter was one of the most difficult the NHS has faced in several years,’ said Mr Gething.
‘We have learned from our experiences of previous winters and the £20million I’ve announced today will support NHS Wales and its partners to enhance delivery of the whole health and care system in the coming months.
Dr Eamonn Jessup, co-treasurer of North Wales LMC, said the goal was worthy but it still does not address they key challenge of lack of an already overstretched general practice, especially in areas such as North Wales which has faced a recruitment crisis.
‘Last winter in North Wales it was terrible for the entire NHS.
‘This money is welcome but you can’t just throw money at a system and think it has the resilience and capacity to be able to make these laudable aims a reality.’
Winter crisis pressures are now seen all year round, he added.
‘It remains to be seen, if GPs will feel they have the capacity physical and mental to take on extended hours. I doubt it in most of North Wales.’
He also raised concerns as to whether those areas of greatest need would receive the required funding.
‘In the end it all depends how this money is targeted. As always devil is in the detail.’
The news comes as all CCGs in England were mandated to commission evening and weekend GP appointments for all patients starting from 1 October this year.
However, with CCGs having rolled out the scheme gradually for several years, Pulse research has revealed a quarter of these appointments have been going unfilled, prompting GP leaders to question this use of funding.