General practice in Wales faces collapse, GPC chair warns

29th June 2023 by NASGP

General practice in Wales faces collapse, GPC chair warns

Unless urgent action is taken to address workload, workforce and wellbeing, the service is at risk, chair of GPC Wales Dr Gareth Oelmann has told the Welsh Government.

Four in five Welsh GPs fear they will be unable to provide safe care because of workload. Average patients per GP has risen by nearly a third and the number of practices is down from 470 to 386.

The BMA is calling for a national cap on patient contacts, and for GP funding to return to 8.7% in the next three years.

According to StatsWales, 474 GPs worked as locums in the quarter to 30 September 2022 (the most recent data set), equivalent to 86 FTE GPs. These GPs are not counted in the stats for GP practitioners, which only cover partners, providers and salaried. The BMA data, which gives the 1,445 FTE GP figure, also excludes GP locums.

Dr Richard Fieldhouse, NASGP chair, said: “This story certainly raises eyebrows. Yet I’d encourage Dr Oelmann to scratch beneath the surface of the data. It’s puzzling why the 474 GP locums in Wales, all booked through a single agency over a recent three-month span, haven’t been factored into this analysis, let alone seen as a potential lifeline in this crisis, not to mention all the GP locums who worked outside of it.

“It’s striking that one in five GPs in Wales are working as GP locums. It’s even more baffling that they’re being sidestepped when we’re hunting for solutions.

“My two pennies’ worth for the Welsh Government would be to take a leaf out of the book of England’s Integrated Care Boards, like the BOB ICB. They’ve embraced models like the NASGP’s GP Locum Chambers, providing a safety net for their locums. This approach keeps both newly qualified and recently retired GPs in the local workforce, serving their local practices, and in the perfect position to then be nurtured into more permanent positions.”

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