A plan to re-design and strengthen Cwm Taf’s GP Out of Hours service was approved by the University Health Board.
Across the whole of the UK there is a significant shortage of GPs – particularly in the out of hours service - which has posed a serious challenge to all Health Boards in Wales.
Despite significant efforts by Cwm Taf University Health Board to recruit additional GPs in the last year the Health Board continues to face serious challenges in staffing the service which has been discussed openly with the local community.
As the GP workforce has not increased sufficiently to staff all four centres safely, the Health Board has decided that from the end of September, face to face appointments will be offered from two centres rather than four to ensure there is a consistent service for all patients. The GP telephone triage service and the home visiting service for the most vulnerable patients will remain unchanged.
Face to face out of hours appointments will be located at Prince Charles Hospital in Merthyr Tydfil and the Royal Glamorgan Hospital in Llantrisant. The service will continue to be located close to, but clinically separate, from the A&E departments of both hospitals.
Regrettably emergency appointments will not be offered at Ysbyty Cwm Cynon in Mountain Ash and Ysbyty Cwm Rhondda in Treorchy for the foreseeable future. However the Health Board is investing nearly half a million pounds in strengthening the service on two sites by expanding the workforce to nurses and pharmacists to support GPs in providing a comprehensive service.
John Palmer, Director of Primary, Community and Mental Health at Cwm Taf University Health Board said:“In an ideal world we would want to keep four centres open but there simply aren’t enough doctors out there to staff them. We are already consolidating the GP out of hours service at one or two of the four hospitals on a regular basis in the interests of safety, often at very short notice because we can’t fill shifts.
“This uncertainty about where the service is going to be from week to week is not good for patients or staff and cannot continue.
“After several months of planning and engagement we have therefore today made the decision to operate the service from two sites in order to ensure the service is robust and to allow us to build up the GP workforce.”