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13.06.17

‘Grave concern’ as more GP practices now at risk in Wales

The fact that the number of ‘at-risk’ GP practices in Wales has increased is of “grave concern” and a symptom of the immense pressures facing surgeries, which can vary considerably across the country, the BMA has said.

Data gathered by BMA Cymru Wales showed that 29 practices are now classed as ‘at risk’ after submitting sustainability applications to their respective health boards for funding help, while another 29 also claim to be at risk despite not having submitted their applications yet.

The union’s Welsh GPs committee chair, Charlotte Jones, acknowledged that the number of at-risk practices changes on a regular basis, “but it is clear to see the number has increased”.

“This is of grave concern and reflects the pressures facing practices, which vary considerably across Wales,” she argued.

“GPC Wales encourages struggling practices to seek help early on by contacting their local medical committees for support and professional advice, as well as completing the sustainability assessment framework to allow practices to take a comprehensive view of their current position.”

Any practice that is struggling should apply to their health board for support, which may be financial, administrative or even managerial. Local medical committees (LMCs) are represented at the sustainability panel meetings.

“The amount of help offered by health boards to struggling practices differs across Wales, with some receiving excellent support, enabling their situation to be turned around,” said Jones.

“Sadly, other practices report a very different response. We continue to work to actively to address both the problems facing practices, as well as pushing to ensure practices receive the support they need from health boards.”

The situation in Wales reflects the pressures faced by the wider system in the UK, with Scottish GPs currently reporting one in four vacant positions, for example – most of which have been empty for more than six months.

In England, NHS Digital figures recently revealed that the numbers of GPs in the country are failing to keep up with targets, which the BMA argued demonstrated a political failure to uphold workforce pledges.

These concerns are likely to worsen as a result of Brexit, which could see off over 2,000 family doctors alone, according to RCGP figures. The workforce also faces a potential exodus if the government is unable to secure rights for EU nationals.

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