CONCERNS have been raised over ‘diabolical’ waiting times as hundreds across Wrexham and Flintshire struggle to get through to their GP.

The pandemic has had a considerable effect on how we all access healthcare, with non-urgent services in Wales being postponed – resulting in a backlog.

Over the past year, many people have become accustomed to telephone calls and video consultations in place of going to their local hospital, or seeing doctors, pharmacists or other professionals in person.

However, the increasingly digital world and strains on GP services run the risk of ‘leaving people behind’.

Patients across Flintshire and Wrexham have been left unable to get through to their GP via the telephone due to a lack of appointments.

In Flintshire, St Marks Surgery in Connah's Quay was closed unexpectedly last month due to staff shortages and Hawarden Surgery has been slammed for ‘diabolical service’.

Patients claim they are waiting hours or even days just to get through to their surgery to book an appointment – most of which is via the telephone.

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A consultation has also been launched on proposals to relocate patients registered with Queensferry Medical Practice to Quay Health Centre in Connah's Quay.

The Pierce Street surgery, which has over 8,000 registered patients, issued a statement to say the practice currently struggles to develop services to meet changing needs of patients.

In Wrexham, the Hillcrest surgery has been slammed for 'horrendous waiting times' and concerns remain over the future of Gresford surgery.

Patients at Llangollen Health Centre were also sent a letter with an update on the Glyn Ceriog and Plas Madoc surgeries.

GP presence in Glyn Ceiriog will be increased and arrangements are in place with the pharmacy to allow repeat medication.

However, Plas Madoc surgery has been branded as ‘unsafe accommodation’ for a GP surgery in ‘this new world we have’ and therefore a proposal for closure has been submitted to the health board.

Chief Officer of North Wales Community Health Council, Geoff Ryall-Harvey, said GP practises need to be seen opening up again and getting back to ‘normal’.

However, despite the ‘new normal’ involving an increase of video calls and tele-medicine, there has to be the ability for patients to see their GP face-to-face when they feel they need to or digital is not for them.

He said: “We have had many concerns and complaints, but this is a national issue. It is happening everywhere.

“People are saying they can go to the barbers, the pub and restaurants so why can’t they go and see their GP?

“People are having trouble contacting their GP, they just aren’t getting answers to calls, and people believe face-to-face works better than video calls.

“Some GPs have worked extra hard, and we get good reports, but we have had many complaints. We have also had an unprecedented number of closures and list changes.

“The public are very concerned, and rightly so because it is so concerning. It definitely needs to be easier to contact the GP whether that be through emails or texts and so on but some people need to be able to get into the surgery and there are issues with that.

“I live in Chester and right the way through I’ve been able to get into the surgery if I need to, it seems to be more of a problem in Wales than elsewhere.”

Mr Ryall-Harvey said elderly people and those without equipment or knowledge of the digital world run the risk of being left behind.

He added: “Video calling is convenient for a lot of people but it doesn’t suit everyone. This issue has definitely been heightened by Covid.

“People have been very patient and understanding but that is starting to wear thin. GP shortages is an underlying issue and has been for some years, it’s where you get the GPs.

“The Betsi Cadwaladr health board is quite proactive but this is a problem for GP s themselves. Often when a GP surgery wants to close they say funding is an issue but that isn’t the case, it’s often a staffing issue.

“I think these concerns is a GP problem. A lot of people don’t realise that by and large, GPs are not employees of Betsi. Outside of the contract, Betsi cannot tell a GP exactly what to do and of course what we are seeing is because of a shortage of GPs it is difficult for health boards to be heavy handed.”

Mr Ryall-Harvey said if patients cannot get through to their GP via the telephone then they should let the health board and community council know so they can find out exactly what is going on.

He said: “The public have been really patient in a difficult time but we need to be seeing GPs opening up again and getting back to normal.

“The new normal may involve more tele-medicine but there needs to be that ability to see a GP face-to-face.”

Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board said improvements are being looked into for additional resources to improve support but patients are being urged to 'play their part'.

Dr Chris Stockport, Betsi Cadwaladr’s executive director of primary and community care is appealing for people to ‘help us to help you’, as primary care services face a range of challenges. These include a backlog of routine work, unprecedented new demand, national recruitment difficulties, Covid restrictions and the vaccination programme.

He said patients should be understanding, access appropriate care services for their needs and be respectful to staff who have ‘borne the brunt of increased abusive behaviour’.

“As we slowly emerge from COVID-19 restrictions, we need people to understand that we are busier than ever as we work to be able to offer the type of service they received before the pandemic,” explained Dr Stockport.

“Up until the start of June, primary care had given almost two-thirds (385,000) of the total COVID-19 vaccinations across North Wales, playing a key role in one of the most efficient vaccination rollouts in the world. This is helping us turn the tide on the pandemic but continues to see primary care staff regularly work into evenings and throughout weekends to fit this in.

“Despite this huge logistical challenge and the additional workload that comes with it, primary care services have remained open and continue to be available for those who require support. My thanks go to these teams across North Wales.

“However, we are facing a perfect storm of unprecedented challenges over the coming months and need the public’s help to ensure that we can continue to provide the most appropriate support for people as quickly as possible.

“We understand that people can feel frustrated when they can’t get an appointment, and we know that there are certain areas of North Wales where this is being felt more acutely. By working together, you can help us to help you."

Dr Stockport said there are a number of ways that you "can help us to help you" over the coming months:

Please respect staff and “if you are offered an appointment with a primary care health professional instead of a GP, this doesn’t mean that your will get a lesser service, or that your health concern is being treated less seriously.”

Consider community pharmacies who can "provide expert advice and guidance about treating common ailments, conditions and their symptoms".

To find details of your nearest community pharmacy visit”

“We know that triage, phone and video consultation are not perfect for everyone, but some people have found this to be a fantastic improvement. We are working hard to get the balance right," Dr Stockport added.

“Please be patient and remember that these systems have been introduced to keep you safe and help us work as efficiently as possible, as we deal with unprecedented demand for care. If, following triage a face to face appointment is required, then we are committed to offering one.”

Out of hours support is available by calling 111 for urgent, but not life-threatening- conditions. Please call 999 in a medical emergency.

More information about where to go can be found online at