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Whole region risks ‘losing general practice’ due to GP shortage

The majority of areas in North Wales are at risk of losing general practice provision altogether if recruitment problems are not addressed urgently, the LMC chair has warned.

In a letter to Welsh Assembly Members, Dr Eamonn Jessup said a situation they had warned about a few years ago was now coming to pass.

‘Wrexham now has six large practices that have lost their GPs,’ Dr Jessup said.

‘The [health board] are directly managing these practices, along with many others across North Wales.’

He adds: ‘The number of practices moving to “managed status” seems to have picked up significant speed in the last few months.’

The letter points out that North Wales is significantly more affected by the problems facing general practice than the rest of the country with practices unable to recruit GPs and that the ‘domino effect that has long been forecast is now seriously looming on the horizon’.

Many GPs in the area are leaving the profession prematurely through retirement, resignation or emigration, he says.

Dr Jessup points out that Colwyn Bay, Conwy and Llandudno now have practices either currently managed or about to become managed.

And the Lleyn peninsula is also badly affected, with Criccieth practice recently handing in their notice.

With health board run practices costing around a third more to run, the growing number will have a ‘significant impact on the health economy of the region’, he warns AMs.

Out of hours is also struggling with stretched services that have large gaps in provision.

The LMC is calling on cross-party action to address the fundamental problems behind the crisis.

‘Just this week, we were distressed to hear that trainee posts appear to have been withdrawn from the pool that exists in North Wales.

‘Good candidates have moved up to North Wales in anticipation of applying for these posts and are left disappointed by this seemingly precipitous decision,’ he said.

Dr Jessup explains: ‘The low level of numbers of posts over many years has left the region with a serious deficit of younger GPs amongst our cohort.’

The result he adds is a ‘second class system’ in North Wales which has been ‘disproportionately badly affected’ by recruitment problems.

In addition to an expansion of training schemes, the LMC called for better support for the traditional model of practice ‘as the most economically viable way to deliver Primary Care’.