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Most GPs in Wales concerned about patient care this winter

GPs say increasing workload will negatively affect ability of stretched workforce to deliver patient care

Louise Prime

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

GPs in Wales are deeply concerned about their ability to care for patients this winter because of the effect of NHS pressures on their already stretched workforce, the Royal College of General Practitioners Wales warned this morning. The College is calling for increased recruitment of GPs and other primary care professionals in Wales – where, it said, the number of GP training places is well below that of the rest of the UK – and for patients to be given more information on how to access non-urgent care.

RCGP Wales recently surveyed its members and reported that:

  • 84% of GPs expressed concern that increased workload will negatively affect their ability to deliver patient care this winter
  • 96% of GPs said their workload increased in winter months
  • 94% of GPs reported that increasing numbers of patients are seeing their GP every winter
  • only 51% of GPs felt there is enough information available to patients about what they should do if they feel unwell during the winter.

The College said these findings provide further evidence of “a pressing need to boost the GP workforce”, and repeated its earlier warnings that Wales needs to increase the number of GP training places. It pointed out: “Numbers of training places in Wales are significantly behind the rest of the UK.”

Dr Peter Saul, joint chair of RCGP Wales, said: “We already have a stretched GP workforce, having to work incredibly hard to try and meet patient demand through the year, so it is to be expected that GPs are concerned about what the winter months will mean for patient care.

“These results are a stark reminder of the pressing need to boost the GP workforce. The number of GP training places per patient is well below the rest of the United Kingdom, meaning there aren’t enough GPs coming into the workforce. The Welsh NHS needs to build a strong and resilient NHS workforce, including through the recruitment of GPs and other primary care professionals.”

He warned: “This is not going to happen in time for this winter. It will likely be a trying time, both for those working in the NHS and patients trying to access services.

RCGP Wales is also calling for patients to have more information about the variety of options available to them in primary care. Last week, the Welsh Government launched its Choose Well campaign, which health secretary Vaughan Gething explained focuses on the role of community pharmacists across Wales and “aims to highlight the wide range of services available, which people may not be aware of, close to their homes and often at more convenient times in the evenings and weekends”.

Dr Saul commented: “We would strongly encourage patients to consider the variety of options available to them in primary care, making appropriate use of valuable NHS resources.”

He added: “The recent ‘Choose Well’ relaunch highlighted the effective role pharmacists can play in primary care. There are a number of other primary care healthcare professionals who can help patients and these all should be considered. NHS Direct Wales can be a valuable source of information, and we also need to see common sense approaches like at-risk groups receiving their flu vaccine.”

In the National Assembly for Wales later this afternoon, the cabinet secretary for health and social services is due to deliver a statement on ‘winter delivery planning’.

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