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‘Grave concerns’ over general practice future as eight in ten practices at risk

GP leaders say they have ‘grave concerns’ about the future of general practice after a survey revealed just how much strain GPs are under.

An ‘overwhelming’ 82.1% of respondents to a Welsh GPC survey said they are worried about the sustainability of their practice, with workload pressures and recruitment difficulties cited as the main problems.

In all, 61.4% of GPs responding to the survey said they do not have a good worklife balance, with 58.1% saying it has got worse in the past year.

Almost three-quarters said increasingly large workloads had already had a negative impact on the health of their staff.

And 81.4% said workload pressures had reduced the quality of service they can deliver to patients.

GP shortages look set to get worse as more than a quarter of respondents said they were considering making a career change and 13.8% said they were looking to move abroad in the next 12 months.

In response to the ‘unprecedented’ pressure facing general practice, the Welsh GPC has published its Urgent Prescription for General Practice in Wales calling on the Government to address the crisis.

Specifically it wants to see general practice receive 12% of the NHS budget by 2020 – a significant increase on the 7.6% spent currently.

Other recommendations include ensuring GPs have the capacity to see patients by increasing practice funding, providing more support staff and removing bureaucracy.

Welsh GPC chair Dr Charlotte Jones said the Welsh Government must take action.

‘I have grave concerns for the future of general practice if the significant and worsening challenges are not urgently and meaningfully addressed at a national level.

‘There is a significant gap between the demand placed upon general practice and its capacity.’

She added: ‘The profession is forced to try and cope with inadequate resources, an unsustainable workload and a workforce under considerable strain, across the whole of Wales.’

Dr Jones said the survey results make clear that for many GPs, their career is having a very negative and personal impact on their quality of life and there is genuine concern about the ability of general practice to deliver a high-quality service as things stand.

‘At a very simple level, we know that there are not enough GPs in Wales and for those who do work here, workload pressure and working conditions are resulting in them reducing their working hours or considering a career change.

‘We have listened to what GPs in Wales have told us. Now the Welsh Government must listen and act to save general practice.’

The GPC published the Urgent Prescription for General Practice in England earlier this year, and recently called off plans to seek GP views on a mass protest against underfunding because NHS England agreed to discuss the demands it contained.

BMA Wales’ urgent prescription for general practice

  • A national standard for a maximum number of patients that GPs can reasonably deal with during a working day

  • Train a greater number of doctors in Wales as well as offering an enhanced retainer scheme and incentives to encourage retired GPs to stay working
  • Review the QOF with a view to remove parts and simplify
  • Remove all unnecessary bureaucracy and duplication
  • Support rising indemnity costs and practice expenses
  • Make better use of cluster funding to reduce pressures
  • Introduce a wider skill mix and add a pharmacist full-time to all practices
  • Promote ‘federations’ to share costs and resources and as a way of bidding for enhanced services contracts
  • Ensure practices are not prevented from closing their lists 

  • Provide the resources to train a wider primary healthcare team

 Source: BMA