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Contract changes could force the closure of GP practices, Welsh LMCs warn

Practices in Wales could be forced to close by changes to the GP contract next month, and GPs will have little or no spare capacity to deliver more care in the community, Welsh LMC leaders have warned.

Delegates at the Welsh LMCs conference in Chester on Saturday unanimously passed a series of motions expressing anger and alarm at the contract changes, which they said would lead to constraints on patients’ access to primary care as resources are diverted to meet the new requirements.

One part of a motion passed warned that the Government’s flagship policy of more care in the community would be impeded ‘through no fault of GP practices who are simply trying to meet the challenges of the new work [in the contract], let alone taking on any additional work’.

GPC Wales has negotiated a separate contract deal with the Welsh Government, based mainly on the contract proposals in England, but with a number of concessions such as a promise to protect MPIG payments and the retention of 59 of the 154.4 points in the QOF organisational domain.

But delegates said even the negotiated deal could cause some practices to close.

They unanimously passed a motion stating that the conference ‘notes with anger the impact that the GMS contract 2013/14 will bring together with threats to enhanced service funding on a background of low morale and workload saturation much of which will threaten the viability of practices’.

Dr Alan Stevenson, chair of Morgannwg LMC, said: ‘While GPC Wales has worked very hard to salvage a compromise deal significantly less damaging than this year’s contract changes and deserves our immense gratitude, and the Welsh Government to its sincere credit has recognised the need to try and support primary care, I still come with a stark warning.’

‘It is no exaggeration to talk about the dire consequences of the strangulation of general practice, and the terminal decline of the health service for the people of Wales.’

He added: ‘When will politicians realise that primary care is a finite resources, and not a bottomless pit in which to dump unresourced work?’

Dr David Bailey, chair of GPC Wales, said: ‘This is more evidence that governments are failing to learn the lessons of the Francis report - that medicine is not targets, that workload is rising exponentially at about 4% a year. That’s because of increased consultation and increased populations. We cannot continue to absorb more boxes to tick all the time.’