GP leaders in Wales have expressed cautious optimism over news that a number of health board-managed practices are returning to independent status.
In North Wales where the health board has been forced to take on contracts for numerous practices, officials confirmed a provider had been found to return some in Wrexham back to GMS status. There are 13 managed practices in total in North Wales at the moment.
Recruitment and retention problems have been particularly acute in the North with BMA representatives reporting locums in health board managed practices are facing unacceptable workloads.
Details are not yet being released on the decision which was agreed last week but the LMC said those involved were local to the area which ‘bodes well’.
Pulse understands the decision involves three practices which were tendered for together.
Mark Walker, deputy medical director of Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: ‘We have identified a possible provider of GP services for a number of our managed practices in Wrexham. The arrangements are in the process of being formally worked through.’
And in the Cwm Taf region in South Wales, two health board managed practices are returning to GMS status in October after neighbouring GPs decided to expand.
The health board said they had run the Hillcrest Surgery in Mountain Ash and Brookside Surgery in Merthyr Tydfil for some time but they would now be merging with local practices to ensure stability.
Alan Lawrie, Cwm Taf director of primary, community and mental health, said: ‘We are pleased to announce that we have now completed the tender process and that Hillcrest and Brookside surgeries will be handed back to independent contractors.
He added the health board had made many changes at the practices which they believed have greatly improved the care and treatment for patients.
‘However, after careful consideration, we now feel the decision to merge is in the best interests of the community when it comes to the long-term future of the practices and bringing added value to the range and quality of services provided.’
Bro Taf LMC chair Dr Steve Davies said it was ‘good news that there are practices within Cwm Taf looking to expand their lists.’
He added that the health board had a good record in supporting GMS practices which had been ‘vital’ in ensuring sustainability of general practice in the region.
Dr Eamonn Jessup, treasurer at North Wales LMC said the preferred provider was now putting together a plan to bring the practices in Wrexham back to the GMS fold.
‘It’s very welcome that we might have some practices coming back into GMS but the potential provider will have a lot of work to do to get a good model going that can provide GMS in an area starved of manpower.
‘Those putting the plan in place are local to the Wrexham area which also bodes well for its success as the folks in charge will be aware of the challenges in the area.
‘I really hope this works out for the patients in Wrexham.’
Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of the BMA’s Welsh GPs Committee said she welcomed news that some practices were returning to GMS status.
‘We have always been clear that the most cost-effective way of providing primary care services is via the independent contractor model providing GMS services.’
She said it was better for patients offering continuity of care, access to a full range of services and patient advocacy.
But she added: ‘We cannot overlook the fact that there are still practices in Wales who are at risk and are considering or have handed back their contract.
‘More needs to be done so that these practices receive the support they need to remain in GMS status.’