GP closures in Wales have affected over 24,000 patients in five years

CREDIT: This story was originally seen on the Daily Post

New statistics show that over 24,000 people in North Wales have seen their local family doctor close down in the last five years

The Welsh GP crisis continues, as it has emerged that over 24,000 patients in North Wales have seen their GP surgery shut down over the past five years.

According to figures from a Freedom of Information request, 10 surgeries and 17 branch surgeries have closed since 2013, displacing 24,139.

In the same time frame, the number of GP surgeries in the region has dropped from 116 to 109 and branch surgeries have dropped from 66 to 57.

Dr Graham Thomas, a partner in the Corwen Family Practice, believes that the figures are not at all surprising – especially as his own practice has struggled since retirements in 2013.

He said: “I think it’s unsurprising but depressing to see the numbers of surgeries closing appears to be increasing and affecting thousands of patients. From a GP perspective, there are so many vulnerable and there is no end in sight. In some ways GPs are victims of their own success in that we have created patients reliant on highly intensive care and the failure to train more GPs has meant our chickens have come home to roost.

“The daily routine is intense but it’s still a great job, best enjoyed part-time.

“We have been asking the health board for a long time to take on some extra responsibilities including helping with our medical liability insurance and the physical upkeep of our buildings.

“Another issue is that junior doctors prefer to work in hospitals because they feel better supported – that is tipping the balance against primary care.”

A spokesperson for Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board added:

“The sustainability of high-quality primary care services is a priority for the board and we are supporting GP practices where there is a service sustainability issue.

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“Where independently-run GP practices have been unable to continue and have handed back their contracts, the health board has either found a new provider or taken over provision to ensure the local population has access to GP services.

“We are working hard to provide the best quality primary care services for patients as possible. Recruitment of GPs is an ongoing challenge due to an unprecedented shortage of GPs nationally.

“We continue to do everything we can to recruit salaried, permanent GPs including advertisements which are currently open and dedicated recruitment events to showcase opportunities within primary care in North Wales.

“The traditional model of GP practice is changing across the UK. We have invested in highly qualified practitioners such as pharmacists and prescribing nurses, who offer an effective service and see many patients as an alternative to a GP appointment where appropriate.”

A Welsh government spokesperson also stated:

“As is the trend across the UK, in Wales we are seeing a shift towards larger sized GP practices, with a wider skill mix of health professionals, providing a greater range of health care locally.

“The NHS Wales Shared Services Partnership (NWSSP) administer all patient registrations in Wales on behalf of health boards. When a GP practice closes NWSSP informs all patients which practice they’ve been assigned to and how they can register with a different practice if they wish.”

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