‘Major step-change’ needed if primary care clusters are to relieve pressures on GPs and Welsh hospitals

Published 13/10/2017   |   Last Updated 13/10/2017

​A major step-change is needed in the development and direction of primary care clusters in Wales if they are to relieve pressure on GPs and Welsh hospitals, according to a new report from a National Assembly committee.

Primary Care Clusters in Wales

The Health, Social Care and Sport Committee supported the Welsh Government's approach for primary care planning and delivery to take place at a local level. It also heard about some very committed professionals leading and delivering this new model on the ground. Yet the Committee found there is little evidence being collected to prove there are any real benefits of cluster working to date, especially for individual patients.

The Committee reviewed Wales's 64 clusters which allow GP practices to combine and provide other services including physiotherapy, pharmacy, counselling and specialist nursing.

Members found clusters are at various stages of maturity, which in itself is not an issue providing they are developing to best serve the needs of the local community.

But the Committee believes a refreshed approach and clearer direction is needed from the Welsh Government. It also wants to see a national campaign explaining to the public the benefits of primary care cluster working and how best to use the range of professionals working within them.

"A key reason behind the creation of primary care clusters is to relieve pressure on GPs and on our hospitals by keeping vital health services closer to home in people's communities," said Dai Lloyd AM, Chair of the Health, Social Care and Sport Committee.

"But we have found limited evidence demonstrating that this is happening across Wales's 64 clusters.

"We believe a major step-change is needed from the Welsh Government to provide a clearer direction for health boards and primary care professionals to make sure the right services are being delivered in the right areas in the right way."


Committee recommendations

The Committee makes 16 recommendations in its report, including:

  • The Welsh Government should publish a refreshed model for primary care clusters which restates a clearly defined vision for them from the beginning of the new financial year;
  • The Welsh Government should develop and action a national campaign aimed at patients which supports and promotes the primary care cluster model;
  • The Welsh Government should ensure that cluster development money is allocated to individual clusters on a three year rather than a one year basis; and
  • The Welsh Government must ensure there is a much clearer and more robust mechanism for evaluating cluster work. Despite the clear challenges, there must be attention given to how evaluation mechanisms can begin to measure the impact of cluster work on patient outcomes.


Read the full report:


Inquiry into Primary Care: Clusters. (PDF, 735 KB)