The BMA has warned the Welsh Government is overspending money on health board-managed practices while eight in 10 GPs cannot provide safe care.
It is calling for an ‘urgent rescue package’ from the Government to save general practice from collapsing.
The union said that more than 80% of Welsh GPs fear they are unable to provide quality and safe care to patients due to their excessive workloads, diminishing workforce, and the rising demands on the service.
It has produced a report as part of its Save Our Surgeries campaign, which was launched in the Senedd today, detailing the extent of the crisis in general practice including a deficit of 664 GPs; 84 surgery closures in the last decade; and an overspend of almost £11m on practices managed by health boards this year.
The report said: ‘For the 22/23 financial year, the average overspend per patient at managed practices was £53.38. This is c.33% more than the global sum figure for that financial year (£111.40 per patient).
‘The total number of managed practices has been between 23 and 29, with a cumulative overspend compared to their GMS allocation of £31.62m. Costs escalated rapidly in 2022/23, with £10.96m overspent in this year alone.’
There are now 18% fewer surgeries available to people with GPs taking on an unsustainable 32% more patients each, the report said.
Wales is left with just 2,324 GPs, with only 1,445 working full-time and over a quarter (26.6%) are planning to leave the profession in the near future according to the BMA’s survey of all 386 GP surgeries, which had 240 respondents.
BMA Wales GPC chair Dr Gareth Oelmann said: ‘Our latest survey of the profession reveals stark results which illustrate the precarious position of General Practice in Wales.
‘Furthermore, recently acquired Freedom of Information Requests to Health Boards across Wales demonstrate how the current trajectory results in serious Health Board overspends due to the additional costs of operating directly managed GP practices.’
He said that despite the ‘remarkable efforts of hardworking GPs’ across Wales, the future of general practice ‘hangs on a precipice’ because of longstanding underinvestment.
And he added: ‘Today is a defining moment for general practice in Wales, a final plea to those in power to listen to our grave concerns and to step in and save the service from collapse.
‘The strain has been felt up and down the country, we have heard from GPs who have been unable to recruit permanent staff for years on end, examples of extreme burnout and a rising number of surgeries having to close their doors as a result leaving thousands of patients having to be treated elsewhere.’
The GPC is asking the Welsh Government to commit to funding general practice properly and invest in GP workforce, as well as producing a workforce strategy and a longer-term strategy to improve staff wellbeing.
Dr Oelmann added: ‘Unless urgent action is taken to address workload, workforce and wellbeing, the service is at risk. Given the vital and all-encompassing nature of our work, this crisis should be a concern to us all.’
Earlier this month, the BMA GPC in England wrote to chancellor Jeremy Hunt calling for a package of support for general practice, to address inflationary pressures and avert an ‘imminent crisis’.
The letter called for ‘an urgent solution’ to be agreed between the Department of Health and Social Care and the Treasury to prevent practices having to reduce their workforce or close altogether.
The demands in full
- Commit to funding General Practice properly, restoring the proportion of the NHS Wales budget spent in general practice to the historic level of 8.7% within three years, with an aspiration to increase to nearer 11% in the next five years.
- Invest in the workforce of General Practice to allow the implementation of a national standard for a maximum number of patients that GPs can deal with during a working day to maintain safe and high-quality service delivery.
- Produce a workforce strategy to ensure that Wales trains, recruits, and retains enough GPs to move toward the OECD average number of GPs per 1000 people. This must feature a renewed focus on retaining existing GPs and tackling the problems driving them out of the profession.
- Address staff wellbeing by producing a long-term strategy to improve the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the workforce.