THE WELSH GOVERNMENT is not collecting data on how long GP waiting times are across Wales according to information uncovered by the Welsh Liberal Democrats. This is despite the data being collected across the border in England.
The Welsh Liberal Democrats are calling for a legal right to see a medical practitioner within 7 days or within 24 hours if in urgent need.
The policy would be enshrined into law, putting a duty on the government and health service to make sure it happens.
It would be achieved through increasing training places for GPs and Advanced Practitioners, fixing pension rules to prevent so many doctors retiring early, and launching a recruitment and retention drive to encourage those who’ve left the NHS to return.
Figures published for England by NHS Digital on Appointments in General Practices including time between booking date and appointment date showed a stark postcode lottery when it came to getting access to a GP.
With no equivalent figures available for Wales, the Welsh Liberal Democrats have stated the same regional inequalities could be taking place, but the Welsh Government is unable to identify them, and thus unable to plan properly how to deal with them.
Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “Across Wales there are simply far too many people reporting that they are struggling to get a GP appointment, yet unless the Welsh Government starts to collect data like that seen in England we will have no idea just how bad the problem and where to direct resources to solve it.
“People shouldn’t be left waiting anxiously for the care they deserve. Such delays can lead to missed or delayed diagnoses, or people going to A&E out of desperation.
“This is not to mention the fact that treatments for illnesses that have been allowed to advance without early intervention are more costly to our overstretched health system.
“Welsh Labour have promised year after year to solve the problem in the Welsh healthcare system, yet they aren’t even monitoring what is a major challenge for so many.
“The Welsh Liberal Democrats would guarantee people a right to a GP appointment within one week, this may seem like the bare minimum, but for so many in Wales it is not currently happening.
“This would reduce pressure on our hospitals and paramedics, saving crucial time and money elsewhere in the NHS.”
Eluned Morgan, Minister of Health and Social Services in Wales said: “Welsh Government does not hold any data on appointment wait times for patients.
“As GPs are independent contractors to the NHS, each GP practice is responsible for ensuring their appointment system is fit for purpose and is meeting the needs of the patients that are requiring their services.
“This responsibility is underscored by the GMS Access Commitment, launched in April, where participating practices are required to produce a reflective report demonstrating how they have interrogated the data from their telephone systems and evidence call demand comparisons.
“The Access Commitment also sets out the expectation that everyone who needs to access GP services will be offered an appropriate consultation, whether urgently or through advanced booking.
Patients should be able to contact their GP practice throughout the day to book an appointment, avoiding the ‘8am bottleneck’ that causes frustration to many.
A preliminary assessment of the patient’s medical need is undertaken to determine the right service for the patient, whether this is an appointment the same day or in the future, or to be signposted to another service.
This approach allows patients to have their clinical needs met from their first point of contact with their GP practice and prevents patients experiencing long telephone waiting times.
“Last year, a Quality Improvement project was initiated through the GMS contract agreement to collect GP activity data. This project is at an early stage but will provide additional information on volume of activity in GMS at a cluster level, as defined by GPs in their practices.”