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One in five patients in Wales struggled to get GP appointment last year

Welsh Royal College of GPs sympathises, but says workforce shortages and underinvestment to blame

Caroline White

Friday, 13 April 2018

One in five patients in Wales struggled to book an appointment with their GP in 2016-17, reveal the results of a survey commissioned by the Welsh government.

The Royal College of GPs Wales sympathises, but points the finger of blame at severe workforce pressures and chronic underinvestment.

The National Survey for Wales, 2016-17: GP services includes questions about people’s use of, and satisfaction with, health services in Wales.

The latest statistical bulletin of the survey covers satisfaction with making a GP appointment and the service received. It draws on responses from more than three out of four (77%) survey respondents who saw their GP within the past year.

Some 21% of respondents said they found it ‘very difficult’ to make a convenient appointment.

After taking account of a range of factors, living in an urban area; being employed; being materially deprived; having a limiting long-term illness; and feeling unsafe (at home, in local area and on public transport) were each associated with finding it very difficult to make an appointment.

Nearly two thirds of respondents (65%) were ‘very satisfied’ with the care received at their last appointment and one in four (25%) were ‘fairly satisfied.’

People who felt a strong sense of community; who were very satisfied with their lives; or who felt they were treated with dignity and respect were more likely to feel very satisfied with the care received.

The Royal College of General Practitioners Wales said GPs share patients' frustrations when they are sometimes unable to offer timely appointments.

It believes patients deserve better and wants them to be able to see their GP where and when they need it.

Dr Will Mackintosh, Royal College of General Practitioners Wales, blamed the GP shortage and chronic underinvestment for the difficulties.

"GPs are working extremely hard to provide timely appointments and we are frustrated when we are sometimes unable to do this. Long waiting times are a result of the underinvestment and severe workforce pressures that general practice is facing,” he said.

"We have an ageing population and more patients with multiple and complex illnesses, but an increase in workload is not being matched with enough GPs on the ground,” he insisted.

RCGP Wales believes that the current allocation for 136 GP training places in Wales should be increased to 200 to secure a sustainable workforce, he said.

"This is a long-term solution, but we also need to see more short-term measures such as steps to alleviate unsustainable workload pressures and keep existing GPs in the profession.

"GP are doing their best in very challenging circumstances, and we want to deliver the very best care for patients, but if waiting times are going to reduce then we will need action to maintain and increase the workforce."

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