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Change in primary care in Wales too slow to sustain services, says report

Progress in implementing changes in primary care in Wales has not been as quick as intended, a report has concluded. 

A report by Wales Audit Office showed that the implementation of national plans to address pressure in primary care services and guaranty their sustainability has been ‘patchy’ and ‘slow’.

This is despite considerable Government investment and numerous plans to transform primary care over the past years.

Last year, the Welsh Government set out long-term ambitions for the NHS to ensure health and social care services are fit for the future. 

The report said that the progress on implementing the new primary care model – which promotes the development of multi-professional teams in primary care to tackle existing pressures on GPs – is ‘patchy’.

The report said: ‘Progress on implementing the model is patchy and the pace of change needs to be increased. There is also not yet a clear approach to quantifying the extent of progress in implementing the model, and there is only limited data on the numbers and roles of staff employed in primary care.’

The report called on the Government to implement a series of recommendations, including involving the public in any change to primary care. 

Responding to the report, BMA Wales’ GP Committee chair Dr Phil White said: ‘We share the concerns that change is happening at too slow a pace and with too limited scale, something we’ve been highlighting for years. It’s no good to inject a single lump sum of cash into the system and expect effective change, increased funding needs to be supported by the spreading of good practice and sustainable ongoing financial support for successful schemes.

‘BMA Cymru Wales has repeatedly warned of the growing gap between the demand placed upon general practice and its capacity. Primary care has historically suffered years of underinvestment while workload for GPs continues to rise year on year. Non-medical workload has also been steadily increasing, with appointments being blocked with requests from local authorities and benefit agencies for additional letters. GPs are being asked to do more with less while patients struggle to access appointments.’

Auditor general Adrian Crompton said: ‘The new model that is envisaged for primary care needs to be rolled out at a quicker pace and on a larger scale, and with appropriate engagement of staff and service users. Failure to do so will create some real challenges to the sustainability of these vital services.’

Earlier this week, NHS Wales terminated its contract with Microtest after ongoing delays to introducing the software.