Change to primary care in Wales is not happening as fast as planned, auditors have warned.
Faster change is needed to tackle long-standing challenges and ensure services are fit for the future, according to the Auditor-General for Wales.
The introduction of primary care clusters and of a national primary care fund, with £120 million to spend, has failed to achieve enough progress, the auditor says. Meanwhile introducing multi-professional primary care teams to reduce pressure on doctors has been “patchy” and needs to happen faster, according to the report.
The auditor warns that people find it increasingly difficult to get access to primary care. In spite of small improvements, 40% reported trouble in getting an appointment in the last survey of patients.
The auditor-general Adrian Crompton said: “Whilst there has been a range of plans to develop primary care, progress in implementing these plans has been limited and primary care has not always had a high enough profile within the NHS in Wales.
“This has to change, and the new model that is envisaged for primary care needs to be rolled out at a quicker pace and on a larger scale, and with appropriate engagement of staff and service users. Failure to do so will create some real challenges to the sustainability of these vital services.”
The British Medical Association Welsh GP committee welcomed the report but called for consultation data to be gathered and published.
Chair Dr Phil White said: “Primary care has historically suffered years of underinvestment while workload for GPs continues to rise year on year. Non-medical workload has also been steadily increasing, with appointments being blocked with requests from local authorities and benefit agencies for additional letters. GPs are being asked to do more with less while patients struggle to access appointments.”