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The BMA blog



Q and A: how we are protecting contracted hours for GPs in Wales

BMA Welsh GPs committee chair David Bailey answers your questions

What kind of support or advice will the BMA Welsh GPs committee be providing over the plans to extend GP opening hours?

Repeated government announcements on 8am to 8pm opening hours and Saturday access have damaged GP morale and I have written to the first minister to make him aware of this. GPs in Wales have made huge progress towards improving access in contracted hours over the last four years despite the highest chronic disease prevalence in the UK and thoughtless pronouncements are undermining this.

We have been in discussions over the last year on improving in-hours access, widening take-up of the negotiated extended hours directed enhanced service, which usually funds one extended evening per week, and looking at whether out-of-hours organisations could provide some routine Saturday access. We have repeatedly pointed out that using funds for extended hours may impact on other enhanced services. We have not and will not enter into any negotiations to alter the core contracted hours for Welsh GPs.

What does the new IT agreement, signed by the Welsh government in July, mean for GPs?

The new agreement undertakes to refresh GP systems by 2015 with either EMIS web or Vision 360 — both hosted systems with full document-scanning functionality. Our concerns are the speed of remote-hosted systems and the fact that iSoft users will have to change systems with concerns about data loss and Quality and Outcomes Framework scores.

We are negotiating to ensure these concerns are minimised. We expect that a managed desktop will provide all practices with useful additional software to improve working environments and broadly welcome the ongoing commitment to improve GP systems.

Are you confident GPs are having enough of a say in reconfiguration plans across Wales?

Obviously reconfiguration is a pan-BMA issue and the BMA Welsh council has had discussions with the Welsh government and the local health boards about what it should look like. Announcements that reconfiguration is predicated on changing core hours for GPs have been unhelpful and firmly repudiated.

That said, it’s clear that difficult decisions have to be made in a contracting health economy with expanding demand. GPs and hospital doctors need to be fully engaged in these discussions. It will then be for the government to engage the public and explain how reconfiguration will work to protect services.

The PCSS (Primary Care Support Service) in Wales has announced its closure. What does the Welsh GPC think about this?

The Welsh GPC is disappointed with the closure of the PCSS, which has provided invaluable support for GPs in distress over the last seven years. We have written jointly with the Royal College of GPs to Welsh ministers about this.

However, following the decision to close the service we have secured agreement that a confidential service providing face-to-face counselling support will continue to be available to Welsh GPs through the Welsh Deanery. Negotiations continue over the decades-old promise of a full occupational health service for GPs.