General practice in Wales receives the lowest proportion of overall NHS spend when comparing the four UK nations, an RCGP analysis has shown.
Figures for 2016/17 show that the proportion of NHS funding spent in general practice was 8.88% for the UK as a whole, with 9.17% in England, 8.26% in Northern Ireland and 7.35% in Scotland.
RCGP Wales said some additional spending had pushed the percentage NHS spend in Welsh general practice to 7.30% but it still fell short of the 11% needed and was the lowest proportion of the UK nations.
RCGP Wales called on the Welsh Government to urgently increase funding for general practice for the ‘sake of patient care’.
The contract agreement for 2017/18 saw a 1% pay uplift and 1.4% funding increase for practice general expenses and an additional £2.7m towards indemnity costs for GPs and their wider practice clinical teams.
QOF was also reduced to disease registers as part of a strategy to take pressure off GPs.
The GMS contract in Wales is currently undergoing a ‘fundamental review’ with NHS Wales, Welsh Government and BMA representatives – with measures to stop practice closures among the top priorities.
This comes after Pulse reported that Welsh practice closures have affected nearly 50,000 patients in the past two years, with over 70 practices deemed ‘at risk’.
North Wales in particular seeing a spate of practice closures and mergers as retiring or overworked GPs hand their contract back to the health board.
Dr Rebecca Payne, RCGP Wales Chair, said she was disappointed that Welsh general practice continues to receive the lowest levels of investment in the UK.
‘General practice in Wales is significantly underfunded, resulting in longer waiting times for patients.
‘Just last week we saw that more than one in five patients said it was very difficult to make a convenient GP appointment.
‘If the quality of patient care is to be maintained and improved, the Welsh government urgently needs to increase funding and spend 11% of its NHS budget in general practice.’
Dr Payne pointed out that Wales has an older population than the UK average but this is not reflected in the financial support for practices and that a Parliamentary review concluded the current situation was ‘unsustainable’.
‘The Welsh Government has made clear its commitment to delivering more care in communities, closer to people’s homes, but it must sufficiently fund general practice to achieve this ambition. Now is the time for action.’