Access to primary and community care

This report highlights examples of work being done by NHS organisations across Wales to develop primary and community care services.

13 March 2023

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This briefing highlights examples of work being done by NHS organisations across Wales to develop primary and community care services and support integration.

Primary and community care act as the ‘front door’ of the NHS, providing the first point of contact in the healthcare system. Their aim is to provide an easy, accessible route to healthcare, forming part of an important ecosystem which helps support early intervention, prevention and enables patients to stay well closer to home. It is a vital part of a vision for an integrated health and care service to create a healthier population.

However, like the rest of the system, primary and community care are currently experiencing a high level of demand and pressure. Since the pandemic, services are combining face-to-face and virtual consultations to respond to demand and patients’ needs.

They are implementing these strategies in the context of workforce and financial challenges, as well as increased demand from patients with more acute needs due to presenting late after many services were paused during the pandemic. Alongside developments such as
the expansion of the 111 service, NHS organisations are developing new and innovative services to allow patients to access the care and support that they need closer to home. This includes a chatbot at Velindre University NHS Trust, a world first in oncology-trained AI.

Dental services have also been severely impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and are beginning to resume a full range of treatments while facing a growing backlog. Organisations are working to alleviate these pressures in the long term, with a focus on workforce. For example, Health Education and Improvement Wales has introduced an enhanced offer for dental trainees aimed at improving rural services, while Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board has established a dental academy to address workforce shortages.

Organisations are also working to ensure that GPs can refer patients to timely diagnostic services, with Aneurin Bevan University Health Board opening a rapid diagnostic centre for patients presenting with vague symptoms.

Pressures and increased demand are being felt across the health and care system, but initiatives to support and develop primary and community care are important in creating an integrated service, which places patient wellbeing at its centre.