THE man in charge of North Wales’s largest GP practice says it continues to face huge challenges two years after the health board took over the running of it.

Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board (BCUHB) took direct control of three practices in Prestatyn and Rhuddlan in 2016 after they all terminated their contracts because of difficulty in recruiting GPs.

As a result, the new combined Healthy Prestatyn Iach practice now has 22,000 patients, and the number increases significantly during the holiday season.

Medical director Dr Chris Stockport told Prestatyn town councillors last week that recruitment was still an issue, with two of the 11 full-time GPs due to retire this year.

As an indication of the pressure the service was under, he said that during the past three months there were 18,000 face-to-face consultations, 1,000 more than in the same period last year.

Healthy Prestatyn Iach offers a "pioneering" service in which other health professionals such as nurses, physiotherapists and pharmacists are all available on site, but Dr Stockport said there had also been problems in filling those vacancies.

They offer a "same day" service for those in need but Dr Stockport agreed that some patients had to wait over two hours to be seen, but added: "We will not turn patients away as some practices do."

The "same day" is to be changed within the next few weeks to try to reduce waiting times.

Clare Darlington, assistant area director for primary care, said that when the health board took over it was a "struggling service" and so it entailed a huge amount of work.

Chris Ruane, MP for the Vale of Clwyd, who is due to meet with a number of surgery practices later this month to discuss concerns, said there are many people who are worried over the length of time it can take to get to see their doctor.

"I do know that there are also concerns within GP practices about the length of time people are having to wait to see their doctor," he said.

"We do need to look closely at what can be done to address this issue whether this is to help reduce the administration side so that doctors can spend more time with patients or to look at improving recruitment numbers."

Dr James Davies, GP, former MP for the Vale of Clwyd and former county and town councillor, said: "The Healthy Prestatyn project was an ambitious attempt to turn around struggling GP services in the town. Unfortunately, despite the very best efforts of all involved, the clear message I have been hearing repeatedly from people is that it has not yet managed to do this. Access to pre-bookable appointments seems to be particularly limited and waiting times for on-the-day appointments can be very lengthy.

"Many feel that accessing primary care at Healthy Prestatyn is difficult and stressful."