RURAL GP practices should have the same priority as more urban surgeries when it comes to health board funding.

That's the call being made by Plaid Cymru's North Wales MS Llyr Gruffydd after a visit to see the GP practice in Hamner.

The practice is currently housed in a cramped converted bungalow dating from the 1960s and the GP Dr Kieran Redman and his patients are desperate to move to new premises to provide an enhanced modern service.

Mr Gruffydd said: "I know Dr Redman has been discussing this with the health board for the past eight years and it concerns me that there doesn't appear to be any progress in terms of funding the scheme. In those intervening years, several new health centres have been funded in more urban villages and towns in the area and yet it seems the rural community in the Maelor has been sidelined.

"The replacement plan involves a new building that can accommodate more facilities, including the pharmacy and other services that are needed in this rural location, and does not involve the health board having to find any capital. It does involve a greater revenue cost over 20 years but the enhanced service will, from what I've seen, ensure a better health service in the locality and less pressure being put on nearby community hospitals and the Maelor Hospital.

"GPs have long been a Cinderella service within the NHS and I'm concerned that rural GPs appear to be the Cinderella service within primary care. I've asked both Betsi Cadwaladr health board and the health minister Vaughan Gething for reassurances that rural areas are getting the same priority as more urban and populous areas.

"Dr Redman and his team are providing a service that's clearly very popular with his patients, who have formed an action group to promote the new scheme. From my visit it was clear that the building was cramped and far from ideal in terms of providing the kind of service we expect from a modern 21st Century GP practice."

Mr Gruffydd highlighted the pressures that BCUHB faced in terms of funding: "We all recognise that demands on health care are increasing and it means the health board does face financial challenges.

"I would, however, point out that expensive new health centres in some urban areas have caused problems for GPs because of the funding model. I would also point out the millions wasted, in my view, on hugely expensive management consultants in the past few years.

"The health board has already indicated that a new surgery building for Hanmer is a priority in the East Division. I intend to hold them to that and ensure that it's a priority in the coming financial year - people in Hanmer and the health professionals delivering care on the frontline deserve no less than urban areas.

"North Wales has many challenges associated with its rural nature but my understanding is that additional funding to deal with that rurality is given. That rurality payment should, by rights, be ensuring rural communities have their fair share.

"I would urge the incoming chief executive at BCUHB to look again at the business case and ensure healthcare services in rural communities are a central part of her vision for the NHS in North Wales."

Mr Gruffydd thanked Dr Redman and the Hanmer Surgery Patients' Action Group for their welcome at the surgery.

In response Barbara Weeks of the HSPAG said: "We would like to thank Llyr Gruffydd for his visit and his support in this far too lengthy campaign for a new surgery at Hanmer.

"We trust both the health board and the health minister will take on board the points raised by Mr Gruffydd and appreciate the very urgent need for new premises in this rural locality. Hanmer Surgery is an efficient and well-run practice with a responsive patient list. It is time the health board recognised excellence and diverted funding to where it is most needed."