One in four out-of-hours shifts were left unfilled in one area of Wales, due to a growing recruitment problem, health board papers have revealed.
Figures from an Aneurin Bevan University Health Board meeting last week show that the average number of unfilled shifts per month last winter was 593, compared with 380 during the winter of 2013/14.
A failure to ‘plan for, recruit and retain staff … in key areas such as nursing and GP out of hours services’ is considered to be one of the health board’s five areas of highest risk to patient care, the papers state.
The health board, which covers the areas of Blaenau Gwent, Caerphilly, Monmouthshire, Newport, Torfaen and South Powys, is currently reviewing the provision of out-of-hours services and will report its findings in September.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board head of strategic planning Eithne Hunter said: ‘Securing clinical staff for out of hours services shifts was a particular challenge throughout 2014/15 and this challenge was heightened during the winter period.
‘Approximately 10% of shifts were unfilled during December and January, rising to 21% and 25% respectively during January and February 2015.’
He added that action must be taken to make these services ‘more robust’.
Aneurin Bevan University Health Board finance and performance committee chair David Jenkins said GP recruitment is a problem not just in the Gwent area, but throughout Wales.