Patients who call their GPs might instead be visited by paramedics in a move which is hoped will reduce the number of hospital admissions.

At the same time a ‘flying squad’ of professionals – doctors, nurses and practice managers – will be established to help GP practices struggling with huge workloads and considering giving up their contracts.

Those are some of the steps being taken by the Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board to change the way that primary care is provided across North Wales.

From 2015, the Welsh Government has given additional funding to health boards to improve the planning and delivery of primary care services and the BCUHB has already introduced major changes.

These include having pharmacists, physiotherapists and other special services embedded in GP practices. The Healthy Prestatyn Iach practice, set up after three local practices surrendered their contracts because of difficulty in recruiting new GPs, was among the first to have such teams.

Patients attending a GP practice with any hearing, balance and aural health issues are now more likely to see an audiologist – it is intended that this will allow GPs more time to deal with other patients – and treatment room clinics have been established in eastern, central and western areas, helping to reduce the number of patients attending emergency departments.

Details of the proposal to use paramedics instead of GPs are given in a report to this week’s board meeting by Wyn Thomas, assistant area director for primary care.

The aim, he says, is to use ‘advanced practice paramedics’ 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, to provide a rapid response to patients requiring home visits, who would previously have been seen by their GP.

“The service aims to address the immediate health needs of patients that, if not seen promptly, will end up being an unscheduled care hospital admission,” he says.

“By supporting GP practices in North Wales it will improve the quality of care, transform the way that care is delivered in the community and help sustain primary care services, reduce emergency admissions, improve patient access, release capacity for GPs to focus on planned care appointments in their practices and achieve better patient satisfaction.”

Over the past 12 months several practices across the region have terminated their contracts, largely because of problems in recruiting GPs, and the general practice sustainability and innovation team – or 'flying squad' – is to be set up to support those practices facing similar difficulties.

“The team will support the practices in improving, developing and sustaining back-office systems, clinical delivery and workforce as well as estate issues,” says Mr Thomas.

A Welsh Ambulance Service spokesperson said: “The trust is working collaboratively with Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) on this initiative, which is currently in its early stages and contingent on funding.

“If approved, a group of advanced paramedic practitioners will help to support primary care providers in some areas of North Wales where practices require assistance.

“We are committed to widening our clinical offer and will continue to work with BCUHB and other partners on system solutions that ultimately support patients.”