A ‘cost-effective’ model is needed to protect Welsh general practice, the BMA has said, as it published a map of closed and at-risk practices.
BMA Cymru Wales has called on the Welsh Government to commit to the traditional, independent contractor model where GPs contract their services to the NHS but are not employed by it.
The association map shows 10 GP practices that have been taken over by a local health board and two that have shut.
There are a further eight practices ‘at risk’, with two of these in North Wales already having handed in their notice to quit next year.
BMA Wales GPs committee chair Charlotte Jones said: ‘It’s a challenging period for general practice, with economic austerity, rising workloads, years of reduced investment and rising levels of stress all culminating in the perfect storm leading to falling levels of GP recruitment and retention problems.’
Dr Jones added that, although managed practices have a place in primary care, they cannot be the sole mode of delivery because they are ‘expensive’ and require a ‘disproportionate’ amount of external management.
‘An ongoing strong commitment from the Welsh Government is needed to resolve the problems facing the profession.
'We urge them to look at the wealth of evidence in support of the traditional UK independent contractor model and to commit to it as the principal mode of delivery in Wales but utilising flexible career options too in support of the partnership mode,’ she said.
‘Fundamental changes are needed to make the provision of general practice in Wales viable for the long term.’
Despite its concerns, BMA Cymru Wales has said it welcomed the Welsh Government’s recent investments through changes to the GP contract, but that more was needed.
A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘We have worked with GPC Wales to improve sustainability in general practice.
'While the General Medical Services contract model will remain the principal model in Wales, health boards must be able to consider other options to ensure services remain sustainable; for example, working with practices to encourage mergers or federations.’
Responding to the BMA map of Welsh practices, the Government spokesperson added: ‘The number of people affected by recent changes to practice contracts and some practice closures represent less than 2 per cent of the Welsh population.
'Some of the practices identified by the BMA have since merged with other GP practices and continue to serve their patients.'