Welsh Government announces changes to improve access to GP appointments in Wales

The Welsh Government said it wants to end the '8am bottleneck' Credit: PA

The Welsh Government has announced changes to the GP contract in an effort to improve patients’ access to appointments.

The new General Medical Services contract deal is the result of an agreement between the Welsh Government, NHS Wales and the British Medical Association’s Welsh GP Committee (GPC Wales).

The changes are backed by £12 million of extra investment, and the Welsh Government said it is dedicated to ending the daily struggle involved with booking an appointment with a GP.

The agreement comes as Wales' NHS faces unprecedented pressures on services amid the pandemic.

What can patients expect from the new contract?

A primary feature of the revised contract is an access commitment which will help ensure people are triaged appropriately.

If an appointment is necessary, they will receive one that is right for their clinical needs.

Where appropriate, people may be signposted to another service – or healthcare professional – who can help or support them.

An end to the '8am bottleneck?'

Welsh health minister Eluned Morgan said: “We know GPs and their staff are under significant pressure at the moment. They have played a really important role during the pandemic.

“I am very pleased we have been able to agree a new contract which rewards all staff working in general practice with a pay rise.

“We have also agreed a way forward to improve the appointment system. I want to see an end to the 8am bottleneck where patients have to telephone their practice numerous times, day after day, to get an appointment.

“The extra funding announced today will support GP practices to build capacity and implement more efficient booking systems to better manage patient needs.

"I have also announced an extra £2 million to help meet the immediate pressures our GPs will face this winter.”

Not enough GPs to meet demand

The new terms also include a 3% pay increase for GPs and all practice staff, and in-year funding to alleviate winter pressures on the health system.

Dr Phil White, chairman of GPC Wales, welcomed the changes but warned there are currently not enough GPs to manage levels of demand.

He said: “We are pleased that our collaborative working relationship with Welsh Government and NHS Wales has resulted in a contractual agreement which we hope will go some way to support practices under great duress.”

"It is crucial that patients understand the pressures facing the profession and what the existing workforce can realistically deliver”.

“Put simply, there are not enough GPs working in primary care to manage current levels of demand.

“We believe that the Welsh Government understands the existential challenge GP practices face, and we are committed to continuing to work together to ensure that patients can access a better-resourced general practice service in the future.”