Doctor warns GP surgeries could close if patients don't get used to covid changes

  • Watch ITV Wales' report by Ellie Pitt

A doctor from Nefyn has warned that GP surgeries could close if patients don't get used to covid changes.

For many people, getting a doctor's appointment feels more difficult than ever right now, and we're all having to get used to new ways of accessing care, like telephone and online consultations. 

But one rural doctor on the Llyn Peninsula has been working this way, through necessity, for a number of years, and he believes it can work for us all.

Ty Doctor have been working this way for a few years

Dr Eilir Hughes from Ty Doctor says that it "will take time for patients to understand" how the new system works but believes that if "it's done properly, it might mean that services will improve".

He said: "Yes, it will take time but grasp it. If you grasp it, you're going to allow your practice to flourish and to be able to continue offering a good service to its community.

"I think if people find that's too difficult to take on board then the risk is unfortunately that the practice won't be able to survive and those GPs might have to seriously consider if they're able to continue offering a service in your community."

A few years ago, Nefyn was facing an issue that's not uncommon in rural parts of Wales. It was struggling to find and recruit GPs.

The surgery adopted a model, where there were one or two doctors but where receptionists triaged patients

The surgery adopted a model, where there were one or two doctors but where receptionists triaged patients and then perhaps they saw an advanced nurse or a physiotherapist instead.

It's a structure in primary care that we're all getting familiar with across Wales, due in part to the Covid pandemic, but Dr Hughes says that changes at Ty Doctor were met with the same disgruntled voices that doctors across Wales are facing right now.

"The greatest challenge was for the patients to understand the cultural change of what the expectation of their local GP practice is and over time that has happened here.

"Patients understand the way we work, they expect to have their problem seen to but they might not be seen physically face to face with their GP. They know that we will tend to their concerns and it will get managed safely."

Dr Eilyr has warned that it will take time for patients to understand the new way of working

But this GP warns that it will take time for concerns to settle.

He added: "I think you're talking about a year or two at least for people to understand that things have changed and actually, they're getting a good outcome from the new way of working."

Doctors surgeries are working in a way that still feels strange for many, but is here to stay.

Health Minister, Eluned Morgan says we've got to get used to the new system.

"There have been people for example who have been concerned they haven't had the access that they traditionally have through their GP service", she said.

"But things have changed now and we've gone digital. That maybe suits a lot of people and some people are not so comfortable with that."

Ty Doctor has found a model they say works. Receptionists take questions and point people towards the right care, while other medical professionals deal with routine jobs.

John has seen the benefits of the new system

John is one patient who has seen the benefits of the new system. He registered with the surgery and got an appointment the same day.

He said: "Thankfully they managed to get me an appointment within an hour of registering with them so I can only say that it's very well organised and super efficient."

Dr Eilir Hughes' advice for people on both sides of appointments right now is to stick with it. Although the service he offers might feel rare today, it could be normal in the future.