Seven years on since the North Wales Local Medical Committee came to the Assembly warning that General Practice in North Wales was in crisis, North Wales MS Mark Isherwood has highlighted the problems patients in the region are still experiencing in accessing GP services and asked the Health Minister, Eluned Morgan MS, what engagement she is having with the relevant professional bodies in order to tackle the problem.
Mr Isherwood said: “I was copied on a patient’s email to Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board last week complaining that a lack of permanent GPs at St Mark’s Surgery in Connah’s Quay “is now causing major problems as unable to book an appointment to see a doctor”.
“They had tried to get through to the switchboard from 8am on June 22, 23 and 24, and on each occasion were kept waiting for 45 minutes before being told that no appointments were left.
“On the 28th June a voicemail said the surgery was closed.
“Responding to me, the Health Board stated “The root of the problem was the unexpected sickness of the two GPs due to be physically present, and on duty, on Monday”, adding that “this was the consequence of unplanned sickness” and that “this is now subject to the intervention of the Area team to ensure the situation does not recur”.
“However, this did not address the problem identified before 28th June, and similar problems are being raised by constituents who are patients at other GP Practices."
“What engagement are you now therefore having or planning with the relevant professional bodies, where it is now 9 years since both BMA Cymru and the Royal College of General Practitioners Wales first launched campaigns warning of a ticking timebomb, and 7 years since the North Wales Local Medical Committee came to the Assembly warning that General Practice in North Wales was in crisis?”
In her response, the Minister referred to the standards introduced in 2019 that GPs need to respond to, stating “we do have measures and ways of trying to interact and engage, and we will be doing that in the next few weeks, with general medical services, to make sure that we can drive up access for our patients around the whole of Wales.”
Jack Sargeant MS for Alyn and Deeside also questioned the Health Minister following concerns raised with him by local residents in which there is 'clearly a shortage of doctors' and asked for ministerial intervention to ensure there is an adequate number of GPs.
Eluned Morgan responded: "I know there have been some issues in particular with surgery at Connah's Quay in recent weeks. I think some of the issues that we saw outlined there, where, actually, a message went out that the practice was actually closed, and advising patients to call an alternative number, that should not have happened.
"And I think it's important that we have a situation where of course we're looking at the infrastructure relating to surgeries around Wales. I've got to tell you that there's a huge amount of work to do in relation to upgrading surgeries around Wales. We have a commitment in our manifesto to create twenty-first century surgeries.
"We're hoping to do that on a kind of hub system so that we're working with local authorities and other partners to put that in place.
"It will be up to the local health board to determine the priority in which those should be set out. So, we will be in further discussions with them, but we are looking for how we can fulfil that commitment that was very clearly set out in our manifesto."