Plaid Cymru has accused the Welsh Government of "sleepwalking to disaster" after health board officials described the ratio of GPs to patients in Wrexham as among the worst in the UK.
The admission came during a meeting on Wednesday of the Safeguarding, Communities and Wellbeing Scrutiny Committee, where Gareth Bowdler from Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board explained that the average ratio of GP to population in North Wales was about 1800, which was higher than the UK average. He added that the ratio in Wrexham was even worse at more than 1:2000 and described the area as particularly difficult to recruit to.
Mr Bowdler, the area medical director, did not explain why that was the case.
Cllr Gwenfair Jones, a former nurse who sits on the scrutiny committee for Plaid Cymru, said:
"I think we're all aware of the shortage of GPs in general and specifically in Wrexham. It's something Plaid Cymru raised the alarm over four years ago. Since then, the situation has got even worse. GPs know it, we know it and anyone who tries to access their GP knows it. Yet we see a health board and Welsh Government failing to act upon the available evidence. We need to train and recruit more doctors here in north Wales and specifically for Wrexham or we will face an even greater crisis in the coming years.
"I asked for the latest information about the medical school planned for north Wales, something Plaid Cymru pushed hard for over the years and was finally conceded by Labour, but there were no clear answers. We need to see progress because people are not able to access GPs and we have even worse problems when it comes to out-of-hours cover."
Cllr Carrie Harper, Plaid Cymru (Queensway) added:
"Plaid Cymru's long-standing policy is to train and recruit 1,000 extra doctors as well as 5,000 extra nurses to bridge the shortfall we face in our community settings as well as district general hospitals. The Maelor alone has more than 100 nurse vacancies and the age profile of both our nurses and doctors means we need to start training now just to replace those retiring in the coming years.
"On top of that, Wrexham Council and the Welsh Government seem intent on making a bad situation worse. The Local Development Plan intends to allocate land for thousands of additional homes to accommodate thousands of extra people. The health board estimates that this will need an additional 10 GPs and yet here we have the health board admitting the recruitment crisis in Wrexham is already amongst the worst in the UK. When will we see some concrete action from the Welsh Government to address this crisis? We are sleepwalking towards a disaster here."