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The waiting game

GP leaders issue guidance amid a flurry of practice closures

GP leaders in Wales have set out to help practices finding themselves with 'no way out', amid a raft of new closures.

GPC Wales chair Dr Charlotte Jones told Pulse that they will release guidance focusing on proactive measures practices can take to avoid ending up in the situation.

She said this comes as an increasing number of practices found themselves with no other option but to hand back their contract to the health board.

This includes the two-partner Borras Park Surgery in Wrexham, which will end its contract in September, leaving the health board in a position of having to reassign patients to other practices.

It also comes as the Coelbren Surgery, a branch practice in Powys, closed its doors 1 May, with patients moving to the main practice three miles away.

Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board said the decision to close came after a year spent trying to recruit new GPs.

It has tried a range of measures to try to keep both surgeries open, including expanding the number of patient consultations dealth with by phone, but said that with just two GPs for 6,000 patients it had become impossible to continue.

And last month, patients at one health board run practice in Rhondda which closed temporarily due to staff shortages were redirected to the main branch practice only to find no appointments available.

Dr Jones said the situation had left the GPC 'extremely concerned', adding that it wants practices to prepare for the worst at an earlier stage so steps can be taken to keep practices going, including working at scale with neighbouring surgeries.

And she said some health boards needed to do more to help struggling practices.

She told Pulse: 'Whilst this problem is not unique to Wales, it is reflective of the pressures facing practices.

'Any practice can find itself in difficulties through unfortunate and unexpected events and it’s vital that support is available to them.’

Guidance which has been developed for practices and will be published soon includes recommendations to seek LMC support at an early stage.

Dr Jones also said they had worked with the Welsh government to implement a series of measures to protect practices.

She said: ‘These include the Sustainability Framework, contract changes - in particular QOF amendments, reduction of last man standing and initiatives to address workforce issues - but for some practices, it is not enough.

‘This, coupled with years of underinvestment, rising workload demand and recruitment challenges in many parts of Wales, has led to a perfect storm, with some practices seeing no other way out than to hand back their contract,’ she said.

The GPC hopes that contract agreements around supporting practices to carry out practice development plans and the sustainability framework will help practices so consider their ‘resilience’ at an early stage, Dr Jones said.

‘However, we urgently need additional resources brought into practices that mirror those provided to directly managed practices, along with financial resources to support them,' she added.

Welsh LMCs had previously said that around 18 practices in Wales submitted 'sustainability applications' for extra support from health boards in the year up to October 2016 - but that many more were at risk.

Readers' comments (13)

  • pha pha pha pha pha .. guidance

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  • Council of Despair

    the welcome guidance will bring about swift change and soon Welsh practices will back on their feet. Resilience and innovation are so important.

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  • I feel safer already. Looking forward to hearing pearls of wisdom to prevent closure:
    1. Forget where you put door keys
    2. Pay staff with RCGP colouring books
    3. Make a YouTube song called 'being a Gp is great, except when you have thousands in redundancy costs'

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  • Yep, urinating in the wind springs to mind..... its a resource issue...... extra 'planning' is not really going to help is it? I think you should follow the NI lead on this one.....

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  • Where is RCGP guidance.RCGP tells
    GPs to plod on no matter how bad the situation is and keep paying the membership fees.
    Learn from RCGP and do not complain.

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  • Plonkeo ergo sum.

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  • eh lady hai kon?

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  • who are these GP leaders , Useless bunch .
    They can only produce advisory guidelines.
    Get Rid of these so called leaders !

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  • Cobblers

    If GP Leaders come up with this guff what hope have we that politicans can understand and come up with what is needed?

    It's a simple Triplet. Money, Workload and GP numbers.

    The money is not enough. The Workload is not sustainable. The numbers of GPs are falling.

    All three need addressing.

    Slow car crash continues.

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  • With two GPs for 6000 it is impossible to continue - in Wales.
    In England/Kent - one GP with 4000 is normal even though they pay you for only 3400 patients in a deprived area.
    When English primary care collapses it will be a crash and no bones given to favoured cardigans will help prop up the system. LMC and CCG members flourished with under the table deals with NHSE should remember this when they sell their colleagues for personal gains.

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