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RCGP concerned as only 374 GP practices left in Wales

RCGP concerned as only 374 GP practices left in Wales

The RCGP has warned of a ‘worrying downward trend’ as the number of GP practices in Wales continues to decline.  

The college said that it is concerned about the decline in number of practices in the country, after new data by the Welsh Government showed that at the end of last year there were just 374 GP practices, a decrease of 9 (2.4%) since December 2022.

There has also been a 0.3% decrease in full-time equivalent fully qualified GPs, and the RCGP warned that the trend is especially worrying at a time when demand is ‘at its highest’.

Welsh GP leaders have previously raised concerns about an ‘increasing trend’ in partners handing back their contract due to mounting pressures, with the latest hand-back happening last week, when a single-handed practice in Pembrokeshire returned its GMS contract to the local health board.

RCGP Cymru Wales chair Dr Rowena Christmas said: ‘If the Welsh Government is to deliver on its long-standing promise to focus on care closer to patients in their local communities, we need to see urgent investment in general practice.’

The Government responded to the concerns arguing that Wales is experiencing ‘a shift towards larger GP practices’ with ‘a wider mix of professionals’ in one setting.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘There has been a large increase in the number of wider practice staff in recent years, with a broadly stable number of GPs.

‘The current target of 160 new GP trainees each year is consistently being exceeded – 170 new GP trainees were recruited in 2023.

‘We greatly value the work GPs and all practice staff, do every day. We are working to reduce pressure on GPs, through the introduction NHS 111 Wales and increasing the services community pharmacists provide.’

Welsh Government data on GP practices

In Wales, on 31 December 2023, there were:

  • 374 active GP practices, a decrease of 9 (2.4%) since 31 December 2022.
  • 1,588 full-time equivalent (FTE) fully qualified GPs, a decrease of 4 (0.3%) since 31 December 2022. This includes partners, providers, salaried, retainers and active locums only.
  • 409 FTE GP registrars (trainee GPs), a decrease of 2 (0.6%) since 31 December 2022.
  • 5,948 FTE wider practice staff, an increase of 126 (2.2%) since 31 December 2022.

Source: Welsh Gov

Last week St David’s Surgery in North Pembrokeshire announced its decision to return its contract to Hywel Dda University Health Board.

GP partner Dr Stephen Riley and his team will stop providing services at the end of October, although the practice declined to give a reason for the decision when approached by Pulse.

The health board has advised patients to remain registered with the practice ‘while longer-term plans are developed’.

Its director of primary care, community and long term care Jill Paterson said: ‘We would like to reassure the patients of St David’s Surgery that the provision of these important services will continue for patients.

‘We will be working closely with St David’s Surgery and the wider cluster to find the best way to secure services for patients.

‘The views of the local community and patients will be gathered before any decision is made about the long-term provision for the service.’

Last month, the BMA’s Wales GP Committee was given a mandate to ‘urgently consider’ industrial action across general practice to explore ‘what GP practices might consider stopping doing’ in order to remain viable.