Wales online article:
But the Welsh Government claims steps are being put in place to extend GP services in areas with ‘clear evidence of need’
A shortage of evening and weekend appointments is making it hard for working people to access their GP, a survey has revealed.
According to the National Survey for Wales, two-fifths of people in jobs said they “struggled” to see their doctor the last time they tried.
And while half said long waits were the problem, 39% of those employed said a lack of evening and weekend appointments remained a major issue.
Patients also cited a lack of same-day appointments as a barrier to seeing their GP.
The figures come after the Welsh Government announced a £10m investment in primary care over the next four years.
The funding aims to reduce unnecessary hospital visits and allow those with chronic or long-term conditions to manage their health at home.
A new Welsh Government report says health boards and GP practices will offer appointments after 6.30pm where there is “clear evidence of need”. It states the availability of appointments during normal opening hours will also be “optimised”.
Paul Myres, chair of RCGP Wales, said: “We realise there is a disquiet amongst the general public in accessing GP surgeries, and there are quite a few who would like to have appointments over the weekend.
“GPs already provide a 24-hour, out-of-hours service. There is a problem with capacity at the moment which means it’s very difficult to extend opening hours significantly.
“But we have found that a lot of people don’t actually use the late appointments although there is often a clamber for them.”
Health Minister Mark Drakeford says there are parts of Wales which face some real challenges in the recruitment of GPs. Some doctors have warned of a “looming crisis” in rural parts of Wales as surgeries struggle to replace retiring GPs and practice nurses.
But Dr Myres has warned there is “no easy answer” to the shortage.
He added: “We need to reduce the current workload facing GPs and reduce their admin.”
The National Survey for Wales found that 62% of people who had seen their GP in the last year said it was easy to get a convenient appointment.
But the rest said they found it difficult to make a convenient appointment – a 5% rise from the same figures in 2012/13.
Across Wales, 68% said they were “very satisfied” and 24% “fairly satisfied” with the care they received from their GP in 2013/14.
In the new Welsh Government report, entitled Our Plan for a Primary Care Service for Wales up to March 2018, it states: “The Welsh Government is committed to people having access to scheduled GP appointments at the weekend.
“This is being considered through a new model for planned appointments outside core hours as part of wider work on unscheduled care.”
But the Welsh Government insists people also need to take responsibility for their own health.
It says educating the public about how and where to get the right care should be a priority for primary care clusters, health boards and the Welsh Government.
Earlier this year, GPs warned the NHS in Wales at “saturation point”, arguing a need for the Welsh Government to invest in general practices across the country to tackle doctors’ “workload crisis”.