Access to primary care

Graphs on this page:

Supporting information::

Key points

  • The number of patients per GP is similar across Wales, except for Ceredigion, Gwynedd and Powys where it is lower.
  • An average of % of GPs in Wales are practising single handed.  In Merthyr Tydfil, however, 19% of GPs in Merthyr Tydfil are single-handed.
  • In 2001, two-thirds of GP practices with one or two partners were not eligible for the ‘quality service payments’ that are made to GP practices meeting certain primary care standards.  By contrast, two-thirds of those with five or more were eligible.  Within the former Bro Taf Health Authority, Merthyr Tydfil and Rhondda Cynon Taff reported the highest levels of non-eligible practices (79% and 65%) while the Vale of Glamorgan and Cardiff had the lowest (25% and 44% respectively). 1
  • Around two-fifths of all GPs in Merthyr Tydfil, Blaenau Gwent and Rhondda Cynon Taff are aged 55 or over.  This compares to an all-Wales average of 20%. 2  This is both a symptom of recruitment problems and an indication of poor access in the future as GPs in these areas begin to retire. 3
  • Hospital admissions for conditions such as asthma, angina and diabetes which could be treated at primary level may be also another indication of poor primary provision.  A 1997 study of the prevalence of asthma in Wales found greater admissions in deprived areas.  It also reported less use of inhalers in deprived areas, indicating that preventative medicine was less widely accessed.  Such studies highlight the possibility of less equitable access to care, but do not preclude other explanations, such as non-compliance with medicines. 4

Definitions and data sources

The graph provides data about the numbers and type of General Practitioners (GPs) by local authority.  The bars show the proportion of ‘Unrestricted Principals’ who are single-handed (i.e. not part of a practice).  An Unrestricted Principal is a practitioner who is in contract with a local health board to provide the full range of general medical services and whose list is not limited.  The vast majority of GPs are Unrestricted Principals.  The line shows the number of people per whole time equivalent Unrestricted Principal (i.e. total population divided by number of whole time equivalent Unrestricted Principals).

The data source is the 2007 General Medical Services Census, as presented in the National Assembly for Wales publication, Workforce statistics for General Practitioners in Wales.

Overall adequacy of the indicator: medium.  The underlying data is considered reliable.  However, the selection of the data presented is largely driven by what is available rather than what would be ideally analysed.

1. Williams, H. et al, Health inequalities, deprivation and primary care services in Wales: geographical perspectives, Department of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University, 2002.
2. Workforce Statistics for General Practitioners in Wales.  The data is for 2007.
3. Healthcare in a rural setting: recruitment and retention of healthcare professionals, British Medical Association, 2005.
4. Burr, M. L., Verrall, C. and Kaur, B., Social deprivation and asthma, Respiratory Medicine 91: 603-8.  In Gordon, D., et al  Independent Report of the Research Team (Vol 2), University of Bristol, 2002.