More support is needed for GPs if the independent contractor model is to be preserved, the conference of Welsh local medical committees has heard.
Doctors at the conference also called on the Welsh Government to allow primary care clusters to be autonomous bodies and to not allow health boards to hinder their evolution.
In her final speech as chair of the BMA Welsh GPs committee, Charlotte Jones said health boards had to be held to account on clusters.
She said: ‘Clusters are here to stay. They underpin the delivery of the Healthier Wales strategy and the delivery of the primary care model.
‘We know that other than enthusiasts of the cluster concept, most GPs and allied health care professionals don’t understand or fully recognise the value of cluster working because they are too busy fire fighting or don’t visibly see any tangible benefit from them on either service delivery of their workload pressures. However, we do know that there have been some very successful projects from both cluster and pace-setter funds.
‘The Welsh Government needs to ensure that the health boards do not hinder progress either deliberately or inadvertently. They need to put in place effective, key performance indicators to hold the health boards to account as they have few leavers at present to mandate health boards to do anything. That needs to change.’
Dr Jones also reaffirmed the need to sustain independent contractor practices.
She said: ‘It is a fact that the independent contractor model is best for the patients of Wales and is the most cost-effective option for those who hold the purse strings in both Welsh Government and health boards.
‘It was not unusual some years ago to see some in health boards and Government rubbing their hands in glee at the prospect of taking on and running practices.
‘However, they quickly found out that this was not the way forward and our own enquiries, which sadly had to be obtained using the Freedom of Information Act, have now given clear irrefutable evidence that directly managed practices cost a significant amount more than independent contract practices.’
Debating a motion calling for Welsh Government to review the costs of managed practices, Powys GP Alan Woodall said: 'You need partners. You need to make being a partner financially – and in terms of workload and experience – the best possible choice that there is for young GPs again and one that far outstrips being a locum-salaried GP.
'If we collapse as partners, the NHS will follow. Please don't say you haven't been warned.'
GPs also voiced their frustration at a Welsh Government offer of £800 for practices to open for four hours on Christmas Day, with an emergency motion.
North Wales GP Eamon Jessop said: ‘It is vitally important, in my own opinion, that GPs out there do not fall for this utterly derisory amount of money. I know we all have half of us wanting to do the very best for our patients and everything we can, but on this occasion, the way it's been offered by the government is so tragic.’
Motions were also passed calling for the Welsh Government to deal with the issue of ‘last man standing’ at GP practices and remuneration to recognise GPs’ extra work to be GDPR-compliant.
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