Ten practices in Wales are now under health board control and a further eight are ‘at risk’, a BMA analysis has shown.
The practices under health board control are spead across the country, with four practices in south Wales, one in Pembrokeshire, one in Ceredigion and four in North Wales, covering a total of almost 50,000 patients, the analysis has found.
Local leaders have also warned that as many as 40 practices out of 112 in North Wales may be unsustainable.
The BMA has warned that health board control of practices is an expensive way of providing primary care, and require a ’disproportionate amount of external management.’
Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of the Welsh GPC, said that two at-risk practices in North Wales have already handed in their notice to quit next year.
This follows the closure of Nantyffyllon Surgery in Maesteg in the summer and the Oxford Street Surgery in Ceredigion last year.
Dr Jones has called on the Welsh Government to commit to traditional GP contracting as the principle model of service delivery.
She said: ’It is a challenging period for general practice, with economic austerity, rising workloads, years or reduced investment and rising levels of stress all culminating in the perfect storm leading to falling levels of GP recruitment and retention problems.’
North Wales LMC chair Dr Eamonn Jessup estimates that 40 out of 122 practices in his region face closure in the ‘near future’ because of high workloads and shortages of GPs.
Dr Jessup said: ’Our area is in a terrible position. Overtures are being made by our health board to Manchester and Liverpool to see if we can recruit from there, however those areas have their own recruitment problems and the traditional osmosis of doctors across Offa’s Dyke has nearly dried up completely.
’What other evidence of crisis is needed? Out of 14 clusters, five currently have heads that have gone or are about to go.’
He added: ’I am seriously concerned that out of the approximately 112 practices in North Wales, perhaps as many as 40 might be unsustainable in the near future.”
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ’While the general medical services contract model will remain the principle model in Wales, health boards must be able to consider other options to ensure services remain working with practices to encourage mergers or federations.
’The number of people affected by recent changes to practice contracts and some practice closures represent less than 2% of the Welsh population.’
Pulse has been running its Stop Practice Clousres campaign, highlighting the numbers of practices having to close, or at risk of closure.