Out-of-hours primary care in Wales is suffering, report states

A new report outlines the issues that out-of-hours primary care in Wales is facing – the RCGP has responded with advice

A report by the Wales Audit Office has revealed that out-of-hours primary care in Wales is under enormous stress. This is due, primarily, to hiring issues and low morale.

The paper shows that around 60,000 people contact the services every year, but that patients need better information regarding accessing it. Patients certainly view the service positively, but myriad issues are making management difficult.

As a result, Wales’s out-of-hours services are not meeting national standards. The report highlights the work that needs to be done to ensure better organisation for and management of these services.

In response to the report, The Royal College of General Practitioners Wales has suggested a number of recommendations to improve out-of-hours services.

Dr Rebecca Payne, chair of RCGP Wales, said:

“The findings of the report are concerning, although they won’t be a surprise for many GPs. Out of hours services are unsustainable in their current form. GPs and other staff are being asked to work in a difficult environment and patients can’t always access the services they need in a timely fashion.

“Secondary care dominated health boards now run out of hours in most parts of Wales and they have neglected their primary care responsibilities. At times of pressure help and support is given to A&E, but out of hours all too often is left unsupported, under resourced and – despite the dedication and commitment of staff working in the service – unable to compensate for these wider system failures.

“Addressing this needs leadership from Welsh Government and from health boards. There are simple steps that can be taken right now. We want to see more call handlers, addressing call abandonment rates to ensure patients get through to people. We also want to see better use made of other healthcare professionals working in out of hours services, better use of technology, and employment conditions that protect staff working in a high-risk environment.

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“We believe these are sensible recommendations that would lead to an improvement in out of hours services that is so urgently needed.”

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