More than 80% of GPs surveyed by the doctor’s union BMA Cymru Wales’ said they fear they are unable to provide quality and safe care to patients due to their excessive workloads, diminishing workforce, and the rising demands on the service.
This is one of the findings from a report by the union as part of its ‘Save Our Surgeries’ campaign which launched in the Senedd today. The campaign appeals for an urgent rescue package of support from the Welsh Government to save general practice.
The report lays bare the extent of the crisis in general practice including a deficit of 664 GPs (compared with other OECD countries), 84 surgery closures in the last decade and an overspend of almost £11 million on managed practices by health boards. *
There are now 18% fewer surgeries available to people with GPs taking on an unsustainable 32% more patients each.
The Save Our Surgeries report shows that there are just 2,324 GPs in Wales with only 1,445 working full-time and over a quarter (26.6%) are planning to leave the profession in the near future according to the BMA’s latest survey.
Dr Gareth Oelmann, Chair of BMA Cymru Wales GP Committee said:
“Today is a defining moment for general practice in Wales, a final plea to those in power to listen to our grave concerns and to step in and save the service from collapse.
“Recent activity data ** shows that last year (22/23) alone, GP surgeries received a total of 27 million phone calls, with 19 million appointments offered, 1.3 million referrals to secondary care made and a total of 56 million prescription items issued all within a population of 3 million.
“Despite the remarkable efforts of hardworking GPs across Wales, the future of general practice hangs on a precipice because of longstanding underinvestment.
“The strain has been felt up and down the country, we have heard from GPs who have been unable to recruit permanent staff for years on end, examples of extreme burnout and a rising number of surgeries having to close their doors as a result leaving thousands of patients having to be treated elsewhere.
“The BMA Cymru Wales campaign ‘Save Our Surgeries’ calls on the Welsh Government to commit to a rescue package to support GPs and their patients. With the correct level of support, General Practice can thrive again, ensuring the family doctor’s role in the care of future generations”
BMA Cymru Wales’ GP committee is therefore making the following urgent requests of the Welsh Government:
- Commit to funding General Practice properly, restoring the proportion of the NHS Wales budget spent in general practice to the historic level of 8.7% within three years, with an aspiration to increase to nearer 11% in the next five years.
- Invest in the workforce of General Practice to allow the implementation of a national standard for a maximum number of patients that GPs can deal with during a working day to maintain safe and high-quality service delivery.
- Produce a workforce strategy to ensure that Wales trains, recruits, and retains enough GPs to move toward the OECD average number of GPs per 1000 people. This must feature a renewed focus on retaining existing GPs and tackling the problems driving them out of the profession.
- Address staff wellbeing by producing a long-term strategy to improve the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of the workforce.
GPC Wales Chair Dr Gareth Oelmann says:
“Unless urgent action is taken to address workload, workforce and wellbeing, the service is at risk. Given the vital and all-encompassing nature of our work, this crisis should be a concern to us all.
Notes to editors
** Activity data for GP practices in Wales for 22/23: Data source: GMS Wales GP Activity Data Quality Improvement project.
- 27 million telephone contacts to surgeries
- 19 million appointments offered
- 56 million prescription items issued
- 3 million referrals to secondary care
- Over half a million Fit notes issued
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*case studies available on request