Wales

North Wales' GP shortage escalating crisis, medic warns

Dr Eamonn Jessup
Image caption Dr Eamonn Jessup warns of a "domino affect" of practices terminating NHS contracts

GP shortages across north Wales are reaching crisis point, a senior medic has warned.

Dr Eamonn Jessup, chairman of the local medical committee, said the majority of the region was at risk of losing their family doctor.

He has written an open letter to cross-party AMs calling on them to help fight the "recruitment plight".

The Welsh Government said sustaining high quality primary care across the whole of Wales was a priority.

Since 2015, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) has taken over the running of seven GP practices across north Wales after they terminated their NHS contracts.

The board also opened a GP hub in Prestatyn after three other surgeries handed back their keys.

Four more practices, Criccieth, Rysseldene in Colwyn Bay, and Borras and Forge Road, both in Wrexham, are due to terminate their contracts in the coming months.

Image copyright Google
Image caption Rashmi surgery in Old Colwyn, with 1,200 patients on its books, handed back its NHS contract to BCUHB in January

The health board said it was continuing to work hard to find solutions to the challenges.

Dr Jessup said GP bodies had warned of the upcoming crisis for years, but the number being taken over by the health board seemed to have "picked up significant speed" recently.

He said many family doctors were retiring early due to high workloads, and practices were struggling to fill vacancies.

"We have moved from the position that it was a minority of areas in north Wales that were at risk of losing their GP to the majority of areas now being at risk.

"Since we last raised the issue of this potential collapse there seems to have been little recognition that north Wales has issues more acute than down south," he added.

In Wrexham, BCUHB runs four GP practices after they terminated their contracts, while there are issues in Colwyn Bay, Conwy, Llandudno, and the Llyn Peninsula.

Image caption A new GP hub was opened in Prestatyn after three surgeries handed back their keys to the health board

Dr Jessop claimed it cost approximately a third more for BCUHB to run the services than the practices.

A Welsh Government spokesman said changes to the GP contract for 2017-18 meant investment in primary care had increased by about £27m.

Ministers are working with health boards and the British Medical Association to support practices vulnerable to closure.

He added: "Through our successful This is Wales: Train, Work, Live campaign, designed to market Wales and NHS Wales as an attractive place to work, we are successfully recruiting more GPs to work in Wales."

BCUHB said the issue was affecting primary care across the UK and it was working with partners to "deliver the best possible care for patients across north Wales".

"We've seen considerable success in using new models of working, and will continue to work hard to find solutions to the challenges identified," a spokesman said.

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