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Concern as only 374 GP practices left in Wales

Concern as only 374 GP practices left in Wales

The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) has urged the Welsh Government to boost its investment into GP services across the country to ensure they are ‘fit for purpose’ and reflect patient need.

The call from RCN Wales’ associate director for employment relations Nicky Hughes comes after new figures showed that at the end of last year there were just 374 GP practices in Wales, a decrease of nine (2.4%) since December 2022.

Ms Hughes told Nursing in Practice how general practice teams played ‘a vital role in achieving care closer to home’ and that often general practice nurses (GPNs) were ‘at the forefront of patient care’.

She noted that one of the Welsh Government’s ‘key strategic priorities is to strengthen access to health care in the community’.

‘Access to a GP surgery, especially in remote areas, alleviates pressures on already overwhelmed hospitals by helping people manage health conditions in a community environment,’ Ms Hughes added.

‘If the Welsh Government ethos of care closer to home is to be realised, there needs to be more investment to ensure GP services are fit for purpose and reflect the needs of people living in the community they serve.’

Similarly, vice chair of the Royal College of General Practitioners Cymru Wales, Dr Shanti Karupiah, said: ‘The Welsh Government has repeatedly said its policy is to reduce the time spent in hospital with a shift in resources to the community.

‘If the Welsh Government really 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 data from the government, released last week, also showed a 0.3% decrease in full-time equivalent fully qualified GPs and a 2.2% increase in wider full-time equivalent practice staff.

In addition, it showed there were 1,040 FTE registered nurses, an increase of 7 (0.7%) since 31 December 2022.

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 General Medical Services (GMS) contract to the local health board.

And last month, the British Medical Association’s (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.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘As is the trend across the UK, there is a shift towards larger GP practices, with a wider mix of professionals in one setting, providing a greater range of services.

‘There has been a large increase in the number of wider practice staff in recent years, with a broadly stable number of GPs.’

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

And they said they would continue to work with BMA Cymru Wales to ‘address issues facing general practice’.

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 

A version of this article first appeared in our sister publication Pulse

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