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Practice in GP crisis town launches formal objection to ‘unmanageable’ new housing

A GP practice in Wrexham has declared it can no longer cope with the demand created by new housing developments.

Alyn Family Doctors is already consulting on a proposal to close one of its practices, Gresford Health Centre, because it ‘cannot safely staff’ the branch following an ‘unmanageable’ increase in demand.

It plans to relocate patients to its others branches in the villages of Rossett and Llay.

However, building developments recently began to create more than 300 homes in Llay, and this week politicians are due to be presented with a planning application to convert and demolish disused farm buildings in Rossett to create eight new houses.

GPs at the practice said that if successful, this will make their workload ‘unmanageable’, and so have filed an objection to the plans.

Alyn Family Doctors have tried to close their Gresford practice twice previously, but prior attempts were rejected by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board. 

The practice, which has a patient list of 12,700 and nine GP partners, said: ‘We are already overstretched and cannot cope, and any other developments in our area are unmanageable.

‘Numerous developments have already occurred in our practice area and we cannot continue to absorb the pressure.’

As well as filing an objection to Wrexham Council, Alyn Family Doctors has disputed comments made by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board that it is seeking to expand its facilities. 

This health board previously revealed that 27 practices have closed in north Wales since 2013. 

A spokesperson for the practice said: ‘The health board has stated they are liaising with the practice regarding increasing our practice. This is not correct.

‘There are no plans to expand our premises and even if there were, we cannot cope with demand.

‘We are looking to close one of our practice sites as we cannot safely staff it and the gradual increase in houses in the Alyn Family Doctors area of Llay, Gresford, Marford and Rossett has reached the stage where we must place on record our objection.’

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board declined to comment.

North Wales GP Dr Eamonn Jessup told Pulse: ‘General practice in north Wales is in a crisis. I’m not surprised to hear about the situation with Alyn Family Doctors – there are also major problems with housing developments elsewhere, such as the villages of Meliden and Bodelwyddan.

‘In Meliden, there are plans to build 300 new homes. These proposals come along without much warning, and will impact the practices nearby, such as in Prestatyn, which are already under huge pressure.

‘There is often poor liaison with the local health board, councils and medical authorities, but it seems primary care is low down in their consideration. Alyn Family Doctors feel a lack of support, and that their concerns aren’t listened to.’ 

He added that Wrexham is very close to the English border, making it a prime spot for cheap housing.

He said: ‘GPs could easily work over the road in England for better pay, but these further pressures only exacerbate all the other challenges in north Wales. There are a lack of young doctors and provision for medicine graduates here, partly due to there not being a medical school. The closest are in Liverpool, Manchester and Cardiff, and while the plans for Bangor to get one might help, this won’t make an impact for another decade.

‘Another problem is the stress the secondary care health system is under. Poor waiting times create additional pressures for GPs, and the Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board covers a very wide spectrum – across the entire region of north Wales, which functions very differently to the south, and gives care to nearly half a million patients.’

The chief planning officer at Wrexham Council, Lawrence Isted, recommended that the new plans in Rossett should be refused, but this was not due to any impact on the GP practice.

Mr Isted stated, in a report set to be presented to planning committee members, that the GPs hadn’t provided sufficient proof that it would have negative consequences.

He said: ‘I note the objections of Alyn Family Doctors, however their objection does not identify any evidence of a specific harm that would arise from the development.

‘They have also provided no evidence to demonstrate whether the pressures they face are as a result of the capacity of physical infrastructure or staffing shortages.

‘Healthcare staff shortages are not unique to Wrexham, however in my opinion it is not an issue for the local planning authority to seek to mitigate.’

Further plans were due to be considered last week, but the outcome has not been announced.

Figures last year showed that general practice in Wales received just 7.3% of NHS funding, but the Welsh Government revealed last month that GPs are due to receive a £25 million funding boost. Meanwhile, there are plans to increase the country’s number of GP training places by 18% this autumn.

In England earlier this year, an LMC in Staffordshire protested against care homes being built without GP consultation