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Welsh general practice most underfunded in UK

General practice in Wales receives lowest proportion of total NHS spend of all UK nations

Louise Prime

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

GP leaders in Wales have demanded an urgent increase in general practice funding to enable it to meet increasingly complex care needs among the population. An analysis by the Royal College of GPs has shown that general practice in Wales receives the lowest proportion of total NHS spending in the whole of the UK, and the College has warned that without sufficient resources GPs simply can’t deliver the Welsh government’s commitment to delivering more care in communities.

RCGP Wales revealed this morning that the general practice’s share of overall NHS spend in Wales rose marginally last year, from 7.24% in 2014-15 to 7.30% in 2016-17 – but it warned that far more still needs to be done to put general practice in Wales on a par with the rest of the UK.

For the UK overall, the proportion of NHS total spend on general practice was 8.88% in 2016-17, but this varied considerably. General practice’s share of NHS funding that year was 9.17% in England, 8.26% in Northern Ireland, and 7.35% in Scotland.

Chair of RCGP Wales Dr Rebecca Payne said: “I am disappointed that Welsh general practice continues to receive the lowest levels of investment in the UK.

She pointed out: “General practice in Wales is significantly underfunded, resulting in longer waiting times for patients. Just last week we saw that more than one in five patients said it was very difficult to make a convenient GP appointment. If the quality of patient care is to be maintained and improved, the Welsh government urgently needs to increase funding and spend 11% of its NHS budget in general practice.”

The College argued that although both GPs and the Welsh government say they want patients to be seen closer to their home, with illnesses treated at an early stage before they need to go to hospital, this is just not possible without sufficient resources.

Dr Payne warned: “General practice is facing the challenge of an increase in medical complexity, with an ageing population and more and more patients having multiple, long-term conditions. This rings particularly true in Wales as we have an older population than the UK average. However, it is not reflected in the financial support we are given to be able to deliver care for patients. The Parliamentary Review of Health and Social Care has made it clear that the current situation is unsustainable. However, general practice is still not receiving the resources it needs to treat the entire population.

“The Welsh Government has made clear its commitment to delivering more care in communities, closer to people’s homes, but it must sufficiently fund general practice to achieve this ambition. Now is the time for action. For the sake of patient care, we must commit to spending 11% of the NHS budget in general practice, the frontline of the Welsh NHS.”

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