General practitioner Consultant Wales

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Frank talk needed on NHS services

Doctors leaders have called for an ‘honest discussion’ on what services the NHS should and can provide, following an inquiry into unscheduled care.

Charlotte Jones

The Welsh Assembly public accounts committee called for an end to the uncertainty surrounding Welsh emergency departments arising from reconfiguration so that safe and clinically sustainable medical staffing models could be achieved.

It also raised concerns about inconsistencies in the way performance-related data was collected by the NHS.

In its report Unscheduled Care, which has been welcomed by BMA Cymru Wales, the committee recommends more work to promote the choices available to patients to stop them ending up in emergency departments, and more work with health boards to develop more performance measures for unscheduled care.

BMA Welsh GPs committee chair Charlotte Jones (pictured) said: ‘The Welsh government and health boards must urgently put in place measures to support and develop the GP workforce specifically. 

‘We also welcome the recommendation that the Welsh government should provide evidence that the health boards have sufficient bed capacity to meet unscheduled care demand.’

Patients' views sought

But Dr Jones added: ‘The committee has missed an opportunity to highlight in this report the importance of involving the public in what they can and should expect from NHS.

‘It is about time we started to have honest discussions about what the NHS can and should provide.’ 

The BMA has also warned there is a ‘huge crisis’ in bed capacity in Welsh hospitals, despite the lack of winter pressures.

BMA Welsh council chair Phil Banfield said the system was struggling to cope and doctors were becoming increasingly frustrated because they were being ignored.

He said: ‘Many members have said they have tried to raise concerns but they still don’t feel listened to. This is a persistent problem in the NHS in Wales.’

BMA Welsh secretary Richard Lewis added: ‘Bed capacity is an issue because it’s not in balance.

‘We have no objection to reducing bed numbers when the capacity is there and the system is coping. It’s in patients’ interests to shorten their hospital stays but we have to appreciate that we have a substantial elderly population with multiple and complex conditions that cannot be sorted out in the blink of an eye.

‘When things go wrong it takes time to sort these illnesses out and be clear about diagnosis.’

 Read Unscheduled Care