A decline in the number of GP practices in Wales has prompted the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) to call for government investment, amid concern over the ability of pharmacists working in general practice to deliver high-quality care.

Official figures show there were 374 active GP practices in Wales at the end of 2023, which represents a 2.4% decline on the previous year.

Elen Jones, RPS director for Wales, urged the Welsh Government to reinvest in the whole of primary care to fulfil its ‘care closer to home’ agenda and address health inequalities.

‘This investment is especially vital for pharmacy, ensuring pharmacists in community settings or GP practices can maintain high-quality care and medicines support for our patients,’ she said.

According to Ms Jones, the decline in the number of GP practices in Wales ‘unfortunately reflects primary care more widely’ and she said the situation for community pharmacy was ‘even more stark’.

The Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) has also called for investment, describing the declining number of practices as ‘a worrying downward trend’.

Dr Rowena Christmas, RCGP Cymru Wales chair, said: ‘If the Welsh Government is to deliver on its long-standing promise to focus on care closer to patients in their local communities, we need to see urgent investment in general practice.’

Although the number of practices in Wales dropped by nine during last year and numbers of both full-time equivalent (FTE) fully qualified and trainee GPs also declined, there was a 3.5% increase in FTE direct patient care staff, which includes dispensers and pharmacists.

A Welsh Government spokesperson said: ‘As is the trend across the UK, there is a shift towards larger GP practices, with a wider mix of professionals in one setting, providing a greater range of services.

‘There has been a large increase in the number of wider practice staff in recent years, with a broadly stable number of GPs.’