BMA Cymru Wales responds to new access standards for GP practices

Responding to the Welsh Government’s announcement Dr Charlotte Jones, chair of the BMA’s Welsh GPs committee said:

“GPs in Wales work extremely hard – often to the detriment of their own health - to ensure that patients are seen in a timely manner and this is reflected in the still very high satisfaction ratings. 

“Whilst we accept, welcome and strive for better access for patients recognising the challenges patients face, the way to address this is to support GP practices to release capacity for patients who need their care. This can be achieved through improving recruitment of GPs, practice nurses and ensuring the wider multi-disciplinary primary and community care workforce are in place. It can be achieved through ensuring patients are empowered to self-care when appropriate. It can be achieved through resourcing supporting infrastructure for practices to take forward different ways of providing access; through properly supporting practices and enhancing the partnership model so that we have sustainable services available to patients. Imposing standards on an already overstretched workforce is not the best way to achieve the shared aim of improving access. 

“We will continue to work with the Welsh Government to ensure that patients are seen in a way that is most suitable and appropriate for their need. This work needs to also include robust support for practices so that they have the resources they need to address the challenges they face on a day to day basis, where they are fire-fighting to meet ever increasing demand and thus enable them to have capacity to develop their access arrangements for patients.” 

New standards for GP practices to raise and improve level of service for patients in Wales
A new set of standards, which will raise and improve the level of service for patients in Wales from their GP practices, have been launched today (20 March) by Health Minister Vaughan Gething.
The recent National Survey results showed a decline in satisfaction with GP services from 90% being satisfied in 2016-17 to 86% in 2017-18 and 42% of participants found it difficult to make an appointment at their practice an increase from 38% in the previous year.
People in Wales should know what to expect when they need advice on their health and wellbeing, when they need to consult a GP or other healthcare professional and what other options are available to them. 
To support this, the new standards announced today are as follows:
  • People receive a prompt response to their contact with a GP practice via telephone. 
  • Practices have the appropriate telephony systems in place to support the needs of people avoiding the need to call back multiple times and will check that they are handling calls in this way.
  • People receive bilingual information on local and emergency services when contacting a practice.
  • People are able to access information on how to get help and advice.
  • People receive the right care at the right time in a joined up way which is based on their needs.
  • People can use a range of options to contact their GP practice.
  • People are able to email a practice to request a non-urgent consultation or a call back.
 
The Welsh Government expects all GP practices in Wales, supported by their Local Health Boards, to meet these standards by March 2021. Financial support, which will be announced in due course, will be made available to GP practices to strive towards meeting these standards and ensuring patients across Wales know what to expect from their practice.
Vaughan Gething said: “I know GPs and their practice teams are under pressure to meet demand but I also know people’s expectations on GP access are not currently being met.
“Today’s announcement is not about putting additional pressure on our GP services, it is about them delivering a level of service patients in Wales should expect as a minimum. For many practices across Wales, the standards I’ve announced today will already be in place, but for others this will be a journey of improvement. Over time I would like to see these standards developed further so that services are continually improving for the citizens of Wales.”

In May 2018, I announced the Welsh Government will be establishing a state backed scheme from April 2019 to provide clinical negligence indemnity for providers of GP services in Wales. In November 2018 I announced Shared Service Partnership - Legal and Risk Services as the preferred partner to operate the state backed scheme for GPs in Wales in relation to clinical negligence claims arising from April 2019 (known as the Future Liabilities Scheme). I confirmed that a final decision on the delivery of the scheme would be made following further engagement with medical defence organisations and our other stakeholders.   

Following subsequent engagement with medical defence organisations and our other stakeholders, I have decided that NHS Wales Shared Service Partnership - Legal and Risk Services will operate the state backed scheme for GPs in Wales in relation to clinical negligence claims arising from 1 April 2019. 

NHS Wales Shared Service Partnership - Legal and Risk Services is best placed to support the strategic primary models of care in Wales that align with the vision set out in A Healthier Wales: our Plan for Health and Social Care, and the national primary care plan for Wales.  NHS Wales Shared Service Partnership - Legal and Risk Services will identify shared learning in relation to GP clinical negligence claims which will build on the shared learning process currently embedded in the Wales secondary care scheme aimed at reducing the frequency of claims and improving the quality of care and patient safety. The decision for NHS Wales Shared Service Partnership - Legal and Risk Services to operate the state backed scheme for GPs in Wales has strong support from GPC Wales and NHS Wales.

Our engagement with the medical defence organisations and GPs has identified where collaboration and coordination with medical defence organisations is required given the indemnity cover medical defence organisations will continue to provide for GPs. These include a single point of contact, cross border claims, GMC hearing issues; GP guidance and support, including medico-legal advice. NHS Wales Shared Service Partnership - Legal and Risk Services are engaging with the medical defence organisations and GPs on these important issues to ensure GPs will continue to have a high quality service, with a strong and clear interface with medical defence organisations.

Welsh Government remains committed to working closely with the medical defence organisations and key stakeholders to ensure that GPs in Wales have a scheme which protects their professional reputation and delivers sustainable and accessible healthcare.  

I will provide a further Written Statement on progress made in relation to discussions with the medical defence organisations covering clinical negligence claims which have arisen before April 2019 (known as the Existing Liabilities Scheme) in due course.