Llanelli Star column published on October 18th 2017
I was very impressed by my visit to the chemists in Burry Port last week where Rachel Davies is pioneering new services in the community. There are now eight different services - including flu-jabs and warfarin tests - being delivered in Burry Port that elsewhere are only available from a doctor.
Very many services can be delivered more conveniently and efficiently in a local setting. We need to be doing more things like this to take pressure off GPs and hospitals.
From the number of Doctor’s surgeries in this area that are closed to new patients, we know that GPs are under great pressure, and it is set to get worse. Health board managers are gearing up for further difficulties in Llanelli as Doctors get closer to retirement and they struggle to attract new GPs into the area.
We are training more Doctors and are having successes in creating new types of surgeries, like in Kidwelly, where GPs and pharmacists work alongside physios to offer a better service to patients. But it's hard.
This week rumours spread that the Health Board are going to 'pull the plug' on out-of-hours GP services in Llanelli.
I've been in touch with the Health Board Chief Executive and he assures me that is not the case, but there is a problem as a result of new tax rules which mean that GPs who work for themselves (which is most of them) will have to pay more national insurance contributions from November 1st.
If enough of the GPs decide not to carry on providing cover, there will be big problems with out-of-hours services across the country.
In the event of a shortage the Health Board have had to come up with contingency plans which would see cover from Carmarthen, and that is what started the concern. But after speaking to him the Chief Executive has intervened. He told me “there are no plans to shift the service to Glangwili. We expect the service to continue to run from Llanelli without change”.
Clearly this needs to be sorted immediately and I spoke to Health Secretary Vaughan Gething this week to press the Welsh Government to ensure that it is. It's not a problem of their making, but it is one they have to solve.