GPs in Wales face social care role under review of services

The Welsh Assembly Government (WAG) is developing a ‘rural practitioner’ role that would make GPs in parts of Wales responsible for social care services as well as health.

But GP leaders said that they had not been formally consulted in drawing up the plans.

Rural Health Planning, a report and consultation launched this month, suggests health and social care teams should be based together, and their services and strategies should be integrated in rural communities.

Skills specific to working in rural areas should be introduced to undergraduate medical training, the report argues. Travel services to help non-emergency patients access primary care will also be reviewed.

The role is needed because the current GP contract does not meet the needs of rural communities in Wales, said Welsh health minister Edwina Hart.

Launching the consultation, Ms Hart said that the remit of rural GPs must be widened to include more social care.

‘I am not convinced that the current arrangements are consistent with the development of new service models,’ she said.

‘Further work will be carried out to review how the contract works in rural settings.’

GPC Wales chairman Dr David Bailey said that despite monthly meetings with Ms Hart, she had never raised the issue with him.

‘As far as using the contract to expand the role of GPs, we have never been formally consulted,’ said Dr Bailey.

‘The government has been talking about employing groups of doctors to manage the integration of health and social care,’ he added. ‘A mix of clinicians, GPs and consultants, presumably.’

The consultation runs until the end of August.