New figures from the British Medical Association show that we in north Wales are facing an extreme GP crisis unless swift action is taken. They show that North Wales is the worst-hit part of Wales for GP practices closing over the past six years.
The figures obtained from various health boards show that almost a half of all Wales’s GP practices closing between 2010-15 were in the North – 16 out of 33.
In the past year alone, a further eight out of 20 Welsh practices that closed were in the North – 40% of the total. These include practices in Prestatyn, Rhuddlan, Conwy and Summerhill near Wrexham.
There’s a general problem with GPs retiring and not being replaced, putting greater pressure on the colleagues remaining. Plaid Cymru has been highlighting this problem for a number of years. We’ve advocated training and recruiting an extra 1,000 doctors to meet the shortfall in all disciplines but the problem is particularly acute in GP practices and worse still in parts of the North. Had we seen the Cardiff Labour Government take decisive action when we first raised this some years ago, we could have avoided some of the problems we’re now facing.
With every retirement, the pressure on those remaining increases. We can’t go on like that – it’s unfair on both the doctors and their patients. It’s high time we had a Welsh Government that was committed to developing better training, retention and recruitment of doctors and other health professionals
There is a way forward, as the health board is increasingly taking direct control of practices with salaried GPs. This suits many doctors who don’t particularly want to be running businesses and it seems to be working in Prestatyn, where a practice serving 18,000 patients was taken over by Betsi Cadwaladr health board in April. For the sake of the NHS, which we all want to see succeed and continue to deliver a first-class service, I hope that model works and can offer a solution.
The fallout regarding GHA Coaches continues to rumble on – Flintshires’ real ale trail was cancelled and many rural communities have been left stranded for weeks without a bus service. Things are improving but I remain concerned that things got to this stage. It’s only when these services disappeared overnight that those in power realised how reliant many people are on public transport – to get to work, to shop, to visit friends and family or get to hospital appointments.
It’s vital that we invest in our existing public transport services rather than treating them as a Cinderella service. This has led to problems such as that caused by the demise of GHA Coaches, which it seems was unable to deliver the services it was contracted to run for the agreed price. Cutting costs to the bone can be a false economy.
To get in touch, please phone 01824 703593 or write to Llyr Gruffudd AM at 69a Clwyd St, Ruthin, LL15 1HN. You can also e-mail me at email@example.com or contact me on Facebook/LlyrGruffydd or @LlyrGruffydd on Twitter.
(This column appeared in the Wrexham Leader)