Wrexham GPs protest over patient safety
- 14 February 2013
- From the section North East Wales
Four Wrexham GPs have accused health officials of "a naked attempt at bullying and intimidation" after they raised concerns about patient safety.
One of them, Dr Edgar Coward, says they face a £60,000 a year penalty after closing one of their surgeries because they could not cope with the workload.
They have written to Health Minister Lesley Griffiths.
But Betsi Cadwaladr health board said a plan to reopen the surgery was not met. The Welsh government would not comment.
Dr Coward, (above left) the senior partner at the Gardden Road practice, based at Rhosllanerchrugog near Wrexham, said the GPs were at breaking point over their patient workload.
He said the practice had been forced to close one of its branch surgeries - at Hightown in Wrexham - because they cannot cope.
He said the doctors - all experienced GPs - were finding the increasing workload impossible to handle and "to keep an open door policy would kill us."
"We have got three surgeries and cannot cope. Last year we tried to get a fifth partner to try to save the position but he left the surgery after just three months due to stress. One of our partners has been ill but has struggled back to work."
"It's an incredible pressure cauldron to be in. We know that we are in a chronically precarious position in our GP clinics."
Dr Coward said they had repeatedly raised the issue with the local health board since 2011 but their plea for help have been ignored, and they were not prepared to accept "this arrogant, contemptible attitude" any longer.
He said they had written to the health minister about it because they wanted as many people as possible to know what position they are in and because they did not want a repeat of what had happened at Stafford Hospital.
"We feel desperate and Dr Coward and his partners had to make a stand."
A spokeswoman for the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board said: "BCU Health Board has been in ongoing discussion with the Gardden Road Practice following their closure of the Hightown Branch in October last year due to lack of GP availability as a result of sickness and other issues.
"We agreed a temporary closure for four weeks to allow the practice to implement actions to rectify the situation and met with the partners and agreed a plan for reopening the branch - this agreed plan was not fulfilled by the practice.
"We are now in a position where the health board has significant concerns regarding the ongoing failure of the practice to provide services in Hightown for the patients that normally attend this branch, some of whom have difficulty in travelling to the main surgery.
The spokeswoman added it was not appropriate to disclose details of contractual discussions or sanctions imposed.
She added: "However, we can confirm that where a practice has failed to meet the requirements of a remedial notice, issued under the General Medical Services Contract, then the health board is able to impose a contract sanction under the terms of that contract."
A Welsh government spokesperson said: "It is a matter for the LHB to determine whether a GMS contractor is in breach of its contract.
"As this is a contractual matter between the GMS contractor and the LHB, it would be inappropriate to comment."