North West Wales

GPs shortage in Arfon and Dwyfor prompts letter to health minister

Concerns over a shortage of GPs in parts of Gwynedd have been raised in a letter to the health minister from community leaders.

It said one surgery in Pwllheli was only able to deal with emergency cases for over a month due to the shortage.

The letter's co-signatories fear the recruitment problem will worsen.

A Welsh government spokesman said Health Minister Mark Drakeford had not yet received the letter, but he would respond "through the usual channels".

In August, BBC Wales' Taro'r Post programme reported that Treflan surgery in Pwllheli dealt only with emergency appointments during the summer months after failing to recruit enough GPs.

A spokeswoman said that since then, appointments had returned to normal after one part-time and one full-time GP were appointed.

However, the situation still remains uncertain as two other GPs come up to retirement in 2015.

The letter from the community and town councils in Arfon and Dwyfor to the health minister said the situation was even "more serious" on the Llyn Peninsula outside normal working hours.

"Members had information of cases when there was no GP available which meant they had to travel to Ysbyty Alltwen hospital in Tremadog or even as far as Dolgellau for medical attention," the letter said.

"You can imagine that a journey of nearly 55 miles, and an hour-and-a-half of travelling time, is unacceptable where health is concerned.

"We can only guess that the shortage of GPs is making this situation worse."

Caernarfon councillor Hywel Roberts, chair of the local committee of One Voice - the body which represents community and town councils, said: "When a GP leaves a local practice or retires, it's becoming almost impossible to replace them because of a shortage of doctors.

"Members fear that the situation would get even worse as there are many doctors in the area nearing retirement age."

Mr Roberts said it was the health minister who was responsible "for undertaking manpower planning in Wales to ensure there are adequate medical staff to run an efficient health service".

'Matters of concern'

"One suggestion is that he should consider paying off the student loans of doctors who come to work in these areas but it is up to the minister to decide how this should be done," he said.

"Our regular meetings give the community and town councils an opportunity to raise matters of concern, and I'm afraid that health issues are now being raised regularly and these must be tackled."

Last September a conference on the future of rural health services was told that people in rural areas did not receive as good a service from the NHS as people in towns and cities.

Dr Glenys Williams, of Aberystwyth University, also claimed that fewer GPs were applying for jobs in rural areas.

The Welsh government responded at the time saying it was committed to ensuring people in all areas could access health care.

Also in September one of Wales' most senior GPs, Dr Charlotte Jones, said rising demand coupled with a shrinking workforce meant GPs were often "too exhausted" to see patients out of hours.

The chair of the British Medical Association's GP Committee in Wales said Wales faced a GP "brain-drain".

A Welsh government spokesperson said the health minister had not yet received the letter from the community and town councils.

"As and when a letter is received the minister will respond through the usual channels," the spokesperson added.

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