A new poll found that more than a third of respondents (35%) in Wales waited more than a week to get an appointment with their GP
Waiting times to see a GP have hit “near crisis point” in Wales with patients bearing the brunt of lengthy delays, the Royal College of GPs has warned.
A new poll carried out by the medical organisation between March and April 2015 found that just over a third (35%) of adults were not able to get a GP appointment within a week.
More than half of those surveyed (54%) agreed that GP waiting times in Wales were “a national crisis” and a third felt their ability to see their GP will decline over the next five years.
‘Leaked’ report found GP out-of-hours failings in North Wales
The figures come the same week a “leaked” report commissioned by Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board exposed “serious failings” in GP out-of-hours services in North Wales.
Chair of RCGP Wales Dr Paul Myres, who delivered a key note speech at the Policy Forum for Wales in Cardiff on reforming general practice, said a decline in GP numbers per head of population, along with a “dearth” of trainee GPs coming through the system, will add to waiting time woes for patients.
He said a “significant increase” in the elderly population with multiple long term conditions requiring more care will put added strain on the service in the future.
He said: “Our GPs are under enormous strain as we are under resourced, often seeing as many as 60 patients a day, many of whom have multiple chronic conditions.
“Over 23% of GPs in Wales are 55 or over and we are not getting the numbers in to replace those approaching retirement.”
‘GP numbers per head are falling in Wales’
Addressing yesterday’s forum, Dr Myres said too many doctors in primary care are opting to focus on “specialisms” rather than going into general practice.
He said funding per head had steadily dropped for almost a decade, with more GPs – particularly women – opting to work part-time to create a better work-life balance.
“It’s only since we have been talking of a ‘crisis’ in general practice that politicians are doing something about it,” he added
“We cannot strive for perfection. We have to go for ‘good enough’.”
Despite calls to extend GP opening hours across the country to increase availability for patients, Dr Myres believes it would only lead to greater problems with continuity of care.
500 more GPs needed in Wales
But he said the college’s aim is to increase the GP workforce by more than 500 by 2020.
He added: “There is an urgent need to improve recruitment into general practice in Wales, train more doctors, retain our doctors within general practice and support those wishing to return to the profession.”
Dr Myres said the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), which gives GP surgeries “achievement points” based on its quality of care in certain areas, is a “distraction” which is solely based on performance.
But he praised the Welsh Government for putting additional investment into the primary care sector.
He added: “We welcome recent financial commitments made by the Welsh Government for primary care but are yet to see where the funds will be invested.
“In the meantime, waiting times are getting worse, our workforce is depleting and the number of patients with long term, complex conditions are increasing.”